More than once on those drives, I would hear Erich tell one of his sons, sometimes with concern, other times with exasperation,
"You need to be a man, my son."
Having all daughters, I was curious about that saying. When I asked about it he said that was his way of teaching them to be a responsible member of society.
Daniel Levinson, author of "Seasons of a Man's Life" called the twenties, "the years when a man pays his dues to society and the species." That is, this is the age when young men get a job and start a family.
All week, I have been working on the Tribal Leaders Institute course, Introduction to Reservation Ethics. There is a lot of discussion of the responsibility tribal members have to their tribe, community and building a sustainable future.
Going on at the same time, the U.S. national judo championships is this week and there have been a lot of men and women of all ages coming into town, coaches, competitors, parents with their children. It's a chance to see a lot of what I call "testosterone poisoning", men at practice who are trying to beat people instead of work together, coaches screaming and swearing at players and referees. As a woman, I run into men who don't want to take any direction from me, even if I am teaching a class or the president of an organization.
It occurred to me that many of these "tough guys" display what Erich refers to in the course as "physical courage". They are willing to wrestle another guy to the ground, throw a punch or threaten to kick someone's @$$. I am not at all impressed. Maybe I would have been as a young girl, but now that I am a grown woman, I have a better idea of what it takes to be a man, and it is all of those Dakota virtues Erich talks about , which are (I certainly hope) not limited to the Dakota at all.
Honesty - the honesty to admit when you are wrong, to face up to your true feelings, to speak the truth to your friends and co-workers even when they don't want to hear it.
Courage - one of the truest things Erich said in the whole course, I believe, is that we often make things complicated when they are quite simple, but hard. For example, there is a man in one of the organizations who molested several young girls. This is documented by witnesses, signed statements, personal testimony. Yet, the committee keeps delaying, and saying they need to hold one more hearing, collect more evidence. They have been doing this for four years. Every attorney who has reviewed this has verified that there is enough evidence to take action but the committee keeps putting it off. Why? Because they are scared.
Generosity - I think being a good person has to do with what Erich calls "generosity of spirit" as well as generosity with material goods. After the coaches clinic today, a gentleman from Alaska came up to me and thanked me for teaching. He said it wasn't often that someone who was president of an organization took the time to even show up at an event like this one, much less spend an entire day teaching coaches from small clubs. Lately, I have had a lot of people asking for a lot of things and very little appreciation. Just the time he took to say a few words made my day. Generosity also means being generous with your time, like the man today who is a CPA and company executive. He took the day off work also to come help.
On the way home, I was speaking with a friend of mine. He made the comment,
"I'm not anybody. I was never a world champion."
He may have been joking or he may have had a shot or two of tequila. Regardless,
I was shocked to hear him say this. I told him,
" YOU are a good person. I've never known you to be anything but honest to me or anyone else. You always have my back. You've stood up for me even when it might cost you some position, some funding for your program or made you unpopular. I have met plenty of people who are great at what they do. I have met world champions, Olympic medalists, world-class researchers, people who have made fortunes, published dozens of scientific articles. That's good for them but none of that impresses me as much as you. As a friend, I'd pick you over them a million times out of a million."
It occurred to me that my friend is the kind of person Erich was trying to teach his boys to be when he would exhort them,
"Be a man, my son."
I don't know all the lessons that go into teaching someone to be a man, or a woman, but this course is a start. I wonder if it is too late to start a new phrase for my daughters,
"Be a woman."
Hmmm.... has a nice ring.