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The Virtues of Calvin & Hobbes

As I began writing this post about the values that guide us here at Red String, I struggled to find a way to discuss our values without sounding overly pretentious and preachy. Which, for some inexplicable reason, made me think about Calvin and Hobbes.

Perhaps it is the comic's juxtaposition of right and wrong that brought it to mind, but I think there are a thing or two about values that we can all learn from a little boy, his stuffed tiger and a healthy dose of imagination.

For those who may not know about Calvin and Hobbes, the comic tells the story of a young boy named Calvin and his imaginary best friend and stuffed tiger, Hobbes, making various poignant observations about childhood, life, and the human condition. It is a great analogy to begin our conversation on values.

1) Building Lasting Relationships

Calvin and Hobbes are inseparable. They have their ups and downs, are honest with each other, support each other in times of need, and check each other when necessary. The duo shows us that you can do nearly anything when your closest friend is at your side.

Life is a journey and on this journey, if you are lucky enough, you will connect with someone(s) whom, together, you can learn, lean-on, overcome fears, and share immense joy with. We choose to call these people our true friends.

True friendship doesn't just happen. It takes an investment of time and commitment on both sides. Like any investment, it is important to hold on to and nurture those relationships with people you trust, can depend on, and are always by your side.

2) Respectfulness

Calvin is certainly not perfect especially around being respectful to those around him, but that what makes Calvin and Hobbes so wonderful. It makes Calvin human. He is the "me" in a "me" society. The comic shows life both through his eyes, and from other perspectives, such as Calvin’s parents, his teacher, Miss Wormwood, and his sometimes friend, sometimes foe, Susie, that often provide a counterpoint to Calvin's obtuseness.

Respectfulness isn't about being perfect all the time, but being mindful to the feelings of those around you. Our ability to embrace respectfulness for others is directly proportional to our respect for who and what we are. It is the Golden Rule.

3) Integrity

Calvin is a representation of imperfect man. He is lovable and endearing, yet often unsatisfied and selfish. Hobbes, on the other hand, is humble and empathetic, at times, an enabler, and the Yang to Calvin's Yin. Where Calvin is a question, Hobbes is a suggested answer. The two separate parts when put together, complete each other.

Ethics and integrity has this same push-pull conflict between right and wrong. It is this ambiguity that can create ethical dilemmas that don't always offer a clear solution that conforms with ethical norms.

We all encounter our own ethical dilemmas in all parts of our lives, both personal and professional. We all have different desires and needs, but if we don’t discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live without purpose and unfulfilled. Sooner or later, we are all asked to compromise ourselves and the things we care about. We define ourselves by our actions, and with each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we really are.

4) Purpose

Calvin and Hobbes are often seen in the midst of a deeply philosophical conversation, ruminating on how to best find meaning in their lives. It vacillates between ruling the world to loss and sadness. Here, like in most philosophies, Calvin and Hobbes provides more questions than answers, but it is important to remember that succeeding in the real world is not necessarily in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.

It is important for each of us to think about what we want out of this life and how it aligns with our values and beliefs, and recognize that there are many kinds of success. Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement that requires knowing who you are and what you believe, living with purpose, and not compromising your values for anything not aligned to what's true for you.

5) Accountability

Calvin's philosophical musings often serve two purposes: getting him out of work or justifying bad behavior. Either way, Calvin always looks for ways to avoid the consequences of his actions. And although Calvin usually finds someone or something to blame, he often still faces the consequences for them. Some call this having to learn the hard way. His father calls it "building character".

Taking responsibility for your life and actions can be powerful. When we take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we learn and gain the power to make better choices in both our personal and professional life.

6) Sustainability

In 1995, after a 20 year run, the last new strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published. It depicted Calvin and Hobbes outside in freshly fallen snow carrying a sled. Reveling in the wonder and excitement of the winter scene, Hobbes says, "Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand new!" Calvin exclaims, “A new year...a fresh, clean start!” Hobbes remarks about the fresh snow, "It is like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!” Calvin adds, "A day of possibilities." Getting ready to sled down the hill, Calvin exclaims, "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy!" Calvin and Hobbes sled down the snowy hill, as Calvin yells out "Let's go exploring! And off they whiz into the endless white.

Yet the beloved duo never really left us. They're still exploring.

Creating a legacy that lasts is not easy.

Here at Red String, the problems we seek to help solve are complex, multi-faceted, and evolving, and we realize that when it comes to complex social problems, meaningful social change is not achieved by quick fixes or money alone. Effective philanthropy requires becoming part of and helping to nurture an ecosystem within a community that include residents, businesses, government, and non-profits whose efforts, cumulatively and over time, can deliver lasting impact. This means making long-term commitments, while leaving room for goals and strategies to adapt and change with the times.

Our Enduring Values

The values that we hold are a reflection of who we are. We rely on them to make decisions, guide our actions, and navigate us through the many challenges and temptations of life.

For any business to be successful, and even more so for non-profit organizations, building and maintaining trust among its stakeholders is paramount. To do this, a company's core values must be more than a list of neatly worded statements. They must be actively practiced every day.

While Calvin and Hobbes was not the genesis for our core values, just as Calvin and Hobbes expressed the artist's, Bill Watterson's, own ideas, values, and life views, so do our core values - relationships, purpose, integrity, respect, accountability, and sustainability - express our personal and collective north star for how we want to operate and live by.

(to be continued)

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