Friday, May 16, 2014

Muggles, Outsiders and Empathy

I was listening to Hanselminutes yesterday. (Yes, yes, I realize that's like Hermione saying she went to the library yesterday.)

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter studying in the library
And what precisely is that supposed to mean?
The guest on Hanselminutes was David Starr, who's especially known for using Agile methodologies, including at home, as part of managing his family. It was an interesting conversation and definitely worth some time. They got to the part where they needed to come up with a gender-neutral term for their better halves. (As in the person you need to explain Trello to and convince to use GitHub for the family shopping list.) Mr. Hanselman suggested the term "non-technical spouse." It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Muggle is the word I use (in my head, at least.) But not just for technical stuff. In my house, we're all rather technically-inclined, but in different areas. Most of us are gamers, one is not (full disclosure: that's me). We're interfaith with a ratio 4:1. One of us can't watch PG-13 movies. Females outnumber males. The young outnumber the old ;). No matter how you slice it or which grouping you choose, there's always going to be someone who's left out. There's always someone who feels a bit like an outsider. There's always a Muggle in our midst.

That actually makes it a good thing. Because the borders around our various allegiances shift with every different topic, each of us experiences being the Outsider. And because each of us empathizes with that feeling of not knowing what everyone else is so excited about (or even understanding half of what they're saying), we all can have a lot more compassion and patience with each other. (We can, not that we always do. This is a real family, not a PSA or a very special episode of Jesse.)

The whole world is like this, if you look hard enough. We're all the Muggle sometimes. Imagine what could happen if we all took a little more time to remember this.

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