In the course of our adventure we’ve made some incredible friends. The Gertz’s in Petaluma. Peter and Mark in Az. Preston and Andy, the Bumfuzzlists, Bonnie and Ky, and Alex and Vanessa in Mexico. Pascal and Petra, and Mr P and his family in Belize. And so far in Guatemala we’ve met Ray and Lori, Mark and Ray, Dengue Dave, and Barb and Brian, and Tom. This is by no means the complete list.

Their generosity and kindness has literally left me speechless on many occasions. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Christmas night was one of those occasions.

Frankly, Christmas is usually a grind for me… even with kids. The commercial frenzy and mandatory kindness rings hollow. We typically try to minimize it’s impact on our lives.

Christmas Dinner

Chicken Dinner

This year however we were invited to follow the Claus’s on a mission to a local orphanage / school / youth center. Run entirely by volunteers.

You don’t say no to the Claus’s… especially on Christmas. So the sunset found us following Santa and Mrs Claus in their reindeer powered boat down the rio to Casa Guatemala.

Sunset on the Rio

Where they distributed some 300 donated presents… and meals to the kids of the Casa.

Meet the Clauses

Christmas Dinner for the Casa

It was quite the sight to see. If there’s such a thing as true Christmas spirit… this was it.

The Elves

Central American Christmas

It was a long night

We were in the midst of villages that have no power save for generators. No running water. No tv’s. The local kids were soooo excited at the prospect of seeing Santa and getting new toys. Still they patiently and orderly waited in line for their turn.

This is what patience looks like

Can a four year old light fireworks

It stood in stark contrast to things I’ve seen in America. Where we expect you to be at least eight before you play with explosives. AND where some who already have so much rush the doors at Wal Mart and literally fight with others who also have so much… over cheap DVD players.

Later our friends Mark and Ray had us over to their sailboat for Christmas dinner. What a feast! Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry, green beans, and home made sangria. Not only was the meal incredible… we were simply blown away by their generosity, and positivity, and the quality of their partnership.

After dinner we challenged our Mensa level IQ’s by watching the Wayan brothers movie “White Chicks”. The plot was tricky… but I hung in there and I think I mostly understand the point they were trying to make about the difficulties that face young white heiresses in pre-apocalyptic times. An incredible evening.

It all got me to thinking about how lucky we are… not because we aren’t young white heiresses in pre-apocalyptic times. But because of all the great people our family has met on our adventure. I started reflecting on their numerous positive attributes. Looking, I suppose, for a common thread. It didn’t take me long to find it. Each of them has many great traits. But they all shared six.

Admittedly, there’s some self-selection going on here. People doing similar things are likely to have similar values. And we’ve previously discussed here the fallacy of success… shared approaches don’t lead to similar outcomes. So to be clear, I’m not saying that everyone who has these qualities is great. What I’m saying is that every one who’s great has these six traits.

1) They’re positive. The glass half empty crowd is a downer. They make everything feel impossible and see every hiccup as a sign of the impending zombie apocalypse. Even a short conversation with an Eeyore shortens your life expectancy.

Team glass half full is a can do group. These guys are gamers… willing and fully engaged. They know that so much of life plays out in between the ears the true cost to negative thinking is far greater than the sum of the words. We leave even short conversations with positive people happier and more aware of what’s right in our world.

Don’t misunderstand me… I’m no fan of mindless positivity. If you’re one who believes for example that positive thoughts will keep your engine going when you’ve forgotten to put oil in it… you’re not positive. You’re positively an idiot.

2) They’re tolerant. There’s no doubt… regardless of what any politician says, we’ve contributed to fucking up our environment. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the handiwork up close and personal.

But that’s not the imminent threat to our children’s lives. The top threat to their lives is the violence that’s the by product of intolerance. Both “ours” and “theirs”. Regardless of popular ideological, theological, or just plain “logical” points of view. Not one of us can prove that our version of reality is the right one. Which means that not one of us is in a position to cast stones… or aspersions. And the sooner that we get that fact through our thick craniums… the safer we’ll all be.

3) They’re courageous. The penalty for giving into the comfort of sameness is stagnation. Our spirit is refreshed by new experiences. But you’ve gotta have cajones to leave the poppy fields of Oz and strike off into the unknown.

Courage implies fear. In other words, it’s not an act of bravery to do something you’re not afraid to do… like switch your morning cup o joe from Kona to Columbian. It’s only brave to do stuff you’re afraid to do… like… oh I don’t know… how ’bout switching your morning cup over to Indonesian cat shit coffee (exactly what the name says… it’s origins or price are gauranteed to get your heart going). As the saying goes… you’ll never discover distant lands if you’re afraid to eat shit. (Ok… that might not be exactly how that saying goes.)

4) They’re curious. There may be nothing more important… or more subversive than genuine, unfiltered curiosity. It’s a special branch of intelligence.

You can’t talk curious people out of seeing what’s around the next corner. They’ve got to find out for themselves. Which is why developed societies spend a lot of time trying to corral their subjects curiosity into a place where it can more easily be leveraged towards more predictable ends.

5) They’re creative. Creativity is the tool people use to design the adventures and experiments that will satisfy their curiosity.

6) They finish. So many people start. So few finish. Finishing is the drudgery of bringing order to the mess left by curiosity and creativity. It’s taking care of the stuff that keeps things going. The required and routine maintenance of body and equipment.

The ability to take an idea all the way… from beginning to end, is not only a skill that brought the possibility of having an adventure into these peoples lives. It also greatly increases the likelihood of their adventures success.

And there you have it. My thoroughly unscientific, anecdotally proven list of the six “master” traits that form the back bone for what I’ve come to call the culture of can.

For sure there’s more to the recipe than these six. But if I had to pick just six things that could get you very close to wringing the most out of life. If I had to choose six tools that our children… hell – me too for that matter, could use to cobble together lives that would give us the best shot at making the world a better place… these are them.

The really cool thing is that we’ve had the good fortune to have spent the better part of two years now pretty much immersed in the culture of can. It’s made a big difference.