A friend of mine, Mark Pinto, is an example of a person whose destiny was probably foretold from the day he was born.  So visual and creative he can’t eat lunch with you without doodling on the napkin, Mark runs a successful consulting business providing “graphic facilitation” to clients, helping them with issues ranging from personal leadership, self-directed teamwork, and large group decision-making.

Mark also has a blog called Sketchy Business that he posts to every once in a while.  Recently, Mark wrote a post on what happened to his family when the electricity in his neighborhood went out.  You might be surprised at the result – the family ended up spending “rich, relaxing and productive” time together.

Which makes me wonder – are we really making progress with all of our so-called advancements?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we should abandon electricty, light bulbs and automobiles, but I do think Mark eluded to an important concept in his post.  On what basis should we evaluate Progress?  Too often it seems progress is put in terms of how much more money I can make, how much more productive I can be, or how much more quickly I can get from point A to point B. 

Meanwhile, where do we stand on cultural and societal progress?  We will pump billions into advanced energy research over the next few years, and rightly so, but if we also continue to cut funding to social, cultural and educational institutions, what message are we sending to our citizens; to the world?  More importantly, what kind of country are we building?

We need more focus on family, mutual respect and rich, meaningful relationships in this country.  I’m not talking about simple “family values” rhetoric that has become a required paragraph in every politicians stump speech.  I’m talking about figuring out how to create authentic connections like Mark had with his family, without the electricity having to shut off.

Here’s my simple proposition: let’s not wait for our government to do this for us.  I’m not saying I’m down on the government.  I am saying this is something we need to take responsibility for.  Instead of waiting for the electricity to go out, let’s all spend more nights than not working on our son’s and daughter’s homework with them.  Instead of waiting for the neighbors to invite us over, let’s invite them over for a bowl of chili and some warm bread.  Instead of waiting for the price of gas to come down, let’s form a carpool and save some money while we build some relationships. 

Instead of waiting for our significant other to tell us how much they care for us, let’s tell them first.  Extra credit – add family and friends to that one.

Just because the electricity comes back on, we don’t have to be different people.

Please help get this message out.  Forward this message on to at least one person you know will take it to heart.  It’s not about chain letters and it’s not about promoting my blog (copy and paste the text into your own E-mail, I don’t care).  But if we simply stand by and let “progress” march us by, then no whining when we end up with a life and society that doesn’t fit with our values.  It’s about Balance my friends and right now, there is precious little of it on the end of the scale that matters most.