On Kids, Cancer, and an Unwavering Optimism

Ryan Christian
Ryan Christian

I wrote this piece for Wired’s GeekDad. I struggled with it quite a bit for a couple of reasons. Foremost, it’s intensely personal. I am writing about the Christians and their troubles and, while they are quite open about their experience, it still felt like I was intruding. Secondly, my kids are the same age as Ryan. As a parent, it was crushing to write this and imagine what they went through. Regardless, it is a powerful story.  

In the fall of 2011, when my son began playing hockey, I sat outside the boards during practice and watched as he fell down over and over. Skating can be a tough skill to pick up, harder still when burdened with helmet, pads and a stick. But he didn’t give up and, as more experienced players flew by him, I made a mental note to get him some extra lessons.

As I did, one of the coaches came over and skated along with my son. He gave him some pointers and the falling down became less frequent. I knew most of the coaches, but not this guy. So, when practice was over, I moved to introduce myself. His name was Jeff Christian and he towered over me; when I shook his hand, mine disappeared in his. It was almost intimidating until Jeff broke into a huge smile, slapped me on the shoulder and treated me like an old friend. I knew right then that I had found someone special.

He was not only our coach, but he also began giving my son lessons and took him from an unsure skater to a kid with lots of confidence, who was scoring goals by the end of the season. Jeff is unique because not only is he very outgoing, but, above all else, he is interested in you. I can’t remember a single time I’ve spoken to him when he didn’t ask how I was and how my family was doing — it makes me really enjoy being around him. But when I first asked about his family, I was unprepared for the story that followed. Continue reading

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Reflections on the Eagle Scout Award Turning 100

One hundred years ago this week, Arthur Eldred of Troop 1 in Oceanside, New York became the first to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a short two years after the Boy Scouts were established in America. Since then, about 2.1 million boys have gone on to earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank in Scouting. This equates to about 2% of the 115 million boys who have been in Scouting over the years.  During that time, the requirements for the honor have changed, but the constant has been the consistently high caliber of men the rank produces.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is an award that is given for life, ‘always an Eagle” the saying goes. What’s often referred to as the PhD of boyhood is exactly that, a confidence in a wide array of skills that few others pick up until later in their lives, if ever. It’s an honor that follows men around the rest of their lives. In offices everywhere, resumes marked by the Eagle Scout recognition get moved to the top of the pile. It’s a distinction that men, many years past their courts of honor, list in their obituaries.

There’s a responsibility that accompanies a lifetime award. As any Eagle Scout will tell you, when a fire needs to be started, when a knot needs to be tied, or when a map needs to be read, heads turn toward you. But that responsibility also carries a honing of skill. Seldom a day goes by when I don’t practice a skill I first learned as a Boy Scout. Continue reading

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I Don’t Think Proactiv Is Going To Be Enough

Got pimples? Oxycute them!

A photographic interpretation of the characters in the excellent graphic novel Black Hole, a story about a group of teenagers who undergo physical mutations as a result of a sexually transmitted disease. Neil Gaiman and David Fincher have been tied to a film adaptation, but the movie seems stuck in development hell.

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