Waveplace will be heading to San Francisco this week for the OLPF San Francisco Community Summit 2010. The summit runs from Friday, October 22 to Sunday, October 24.

Beth, Tim and Bill will all be presenting!

Saturday: Beth participates in Women, health literacy and empowerment with Carol Ruth Silver and Humaira Mahi

Sunday, 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM PDT, Tim participates in Internet-Streamed Panel: Deployment Success Stories with Daniel Drake, Claudia Urrea, Pablo Flores and Sameer Verma

Other proposed topics: Team, with OLPC’s Adam Holt: Haiti: Painful & Wonderful Lessons Learned; Tim: Many Small Makes One Big: The wisdom & necessity of scaling from small deployments; Beth: Where There is No Doctor: OLPC Health in Resource Poor Settings

Stay tuned!

In Haiti, everyone greeted everyone. Throughout the day, people walked from house to house, chatting about everything and nothing, keeping connected.

Two weeks later, I’m taking the T home from Boston airport, sitting in a metal subway car filled with more people than lived in that whole Haitian village. No one talks to each other. No one looks up. No connection.

When I’m with Isabel, my four year old daughter, I’m often talking to people on the subway. She’s a great icebreaker with her antics. I’m usually saying funny things to her, which make the people around smile and pretty much every trip we’ve got at least three or four adults enjoying themselves. Isabel’s our way to be real with each other. She’s real, so we’re allowed to be real too.

So why aren’t we to begin with? Why wasn’t I chatting up a storm on that train ride home from the airport, talking to strangers about my experiences, listening to their day, telling jokes and smiling? Why instead do people find connection through Facebook and Twitter and text messaging, without seeing each other?

A simple answer is that it’s easier to ignore people through a computer. Someone speaks to you on the subway and you’re pretty much obligated to interact with the person, if only to shrug them off and reinforce your bubble.

Yesterday I was at Starbucks to get some WiFi and ran into a friend. He got some coffee and sat at a table near me. After a bit I asked if I could join him, hoping to talk about some of the things on my mind. Instead, an elderly woman joined our table. They were meeting for coffee. Would I join them?

Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind. After all, I was busy. Talking alone with my friend might have helped. Small talk with a stranger, not so much. I agreed and sat down (how could I not?). Sipping my coffee, I listened as my friend and the woman talked about the Regis show and her nephew. “We meet every day to solve the problems of the world,” said my friend. His manner with her was completely open and welcoming. She was clearly thankful for our conversation. After a while, I had completely forgotten about the things I wanted to talk to my friend about and was simply enjoying their company. Connection.

Realness isn’t so much about what’s said, but why. If my intent is to push the thoughts in my brain into your brain, without regard to what’s there already, then I’m not being real with you. If instead I’m looking for connection, if I see where you’re at first, if I have patience, then we’ve got a chance for realness, even if it’s Regis we’re talking about. Connection’s about connecting with who we are, offering up thoughts in a shared context developed through conversation.

Before dumping your thoughts into another brain, check with the owner first. Leaving a bunch of boxes in their mental foyer is not only rude, it’s pointless.

Five days until the Maho Workshop begins and I’m already exhausted. Not that I’ve had much break since the Haiti trip. Pretty much this entire year so far has been one thing after the next, an endless string of details demanding time. Everything I do is instead of something else.

This morning I’m wondering just how real I ought to get in these posts. With a name like “realness” staring back at me, my first thought is “very.” But people are many and they’ve each have their own likely reactions. The deeper you dig, the more you risk alienating or offending some.

Now of course it all depends of what you consider “real.” There’s an arrogance in describing one thing as real and others not, but my choice of terms was deliberate. I want people to think about authenticity and what it means to them.

Speaking for myself, realness means complete lack of artifice. “Be who you are, not who you’re not.” We spend our lives constructing these attitudinal constructs which we think of as “us” and they’re really not. Realness is the way you talk to that one person in the world that really gets you, the way you feel when you’re the person you’d like to be. Realness is the way we should talk to young children. Realness is children.

When I was four years old, my family got an Old English Sheep Dog, which we named Frisby. He had my same birthday and we were friends from the start. When adult friends came over, both me and Frisby got trotted out for the first round of cocktails (“He’s getting so big”, “Your puppy is so cute”) and then Frisby would abruptly get locked in the mud room where he’d sit and scratch the door. I’d usually join him in solidarity, sitting and listening to the strange talk of adults, which didn’t sound much like how my family talked to us when others weren’t around. We clearly weren’t invited.

Kids know when you’re not real. You can syrup up your voice. You can pat their head and ask questions and smile. You can tell them jokes. But until you make your arms short and stomp after them like a T-Rex, you’re just an adult and you’ll never truly reach them. They’ll stay locked in the mud room, wondering what all this talk is about, hoping you’ll include them.

After a while, they stop hoping. Some learn to do what they’re told. Others disconnect and learn limitations. “Deficiency becomes identity.”

Want to know how to improve education? Start by being real with kids.