Monday, January 2, 2012

Things I Learned from My Father


(Some Taught On Purpose, Some Accidentally, and There’s No Knowing Which is Which)

(I meant to finish this by Father's Day this summer, but it sat half-done for a long time.  Sorry, Dad.  I love you.)

Coffee is awesome.  It tastes good, and you can have it first thing in the morning.  That makes coffee awesome.  This is an excellent reason to get out of bed in the morning.

When someone asks you how your children are doing when they're not around, you won't know how much it touches your children's hearts when they hear of this later and are told, “When he was talking about each of you, it was as if he had only one child.”  This is important, although you may not know how much.  Your children will know that you see them—really see them—and this simple knowledge of how your eyes danced when you talked about each of them will make them a little teary and remind them of who they are and where they came from. 

Work.  Work hard.  Don't work for titles and accolades.  Work because God has given you the gift of life, and you repay that gift by being a contributing member of the human race.  This requirement of productivity is not restricted to the activities you get paid for.  Human beings were not created to sit around.

When you walk into a room, speak to everyone.  It does not matter if these people are white, black, brown, purple, or metallic.  Speak to everyone.  Don't just speak respectfully.  Speak with love.  All of those people were created by the same God.  He’s your God, too.

Speak to children.  They’re important.  Engage them.  Smile big.  Don’t rush them.  Sometimes people warm up slow.  It’s ok.  Speak to them.  Listen to them.  Look at them when they ask you to.  Meet them where they are.  When they ask you to look at them, do everything you can to look.  It’s how they learn that they are of consequence in the world.  They’re asking for you to validate their worth.  You must, must, must do this.

Eradicating racism happens through meeting eyes, shaking hands, working together, claiming each other, speaking, listening, and eating supper in each other’s homes.  We can’t kill it with arguments and rants, and we can’t kill it simply by telling it to die.  We have to learn how to see through skin to souls.  Truthfully, this isn’t as hard as everyone says that it is.

Your family is not only the people you were born to.

Girls may like dresses, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know how to pull a bow, process a deer, kick a ball, tie up tomatoes, and find shelter in the woods to stay warm in case they get lost.  If you don’t treat them like they might break, there’s a good chance that they’ll get damn close to bullet-proof. 

Expect your daughters to open their own doors.  Teach them to change their own tires and defend themselves and others.  When people ask you if you’re disappointed that you had 5 daughters, look at them like it’s the stupidest question in the world.  Don’t do it because someone’s watching.  Do it because you really believe that it IS the stupidest question in the world.

Don’t do anything because someone’s watching.  Be yourself.  Don’t hide.

Money is not everything, but it is important.  On both ends of the wealth spectrum exists the danger of forgetting that money isn’t everything.  Also remember that money isn’t nothing.  There is no virtue in being poor.  It’s not what God meant when He told us to “renounce the world.”  Beware of people who tell you otherwise.

Respect your resources.  An old Coca-Cola sign may be the roof of a rabbit hutch.  Never go out and buy a shed when you can build one with a tarp, some spare lumber, and a good post-hole digger.  Don’t spend more money than you have to.

Be teachable.  You do not know everything.  Do not walk into situations thinking that you do.  Offer suggestion only when you are asked.  Do so respectfully, and avoid emotional attachment to what you suggest.  You are in this world to learn—not teach—as much as you possibly can.  When you go into a new situation, be teachable.

There are better decisions and worse decisions, but whatever path you choose will have consequences and will teach you something.  It makes absolutely no sense to sit around praying and waiting for a sign.  Pray, make a decision, and do something.  Certainly there are bad choices, but God doesn’t speak to most of us in neon, blinking signs when we are stopped politely.  He may speak to you, but it’s not going to happen while you’re paralyzed with fear of screwing up.  Move.  God’s there—like the air.  Just keep breathing.

At the same time, if you’re not sure, it’s either not the right person or not the right time.  Wait until you’re sure.

The fact that everyone accepts a certain thing does not make it true.  Nor does this make it right.  Human beings have accepted numerous incorrect assumptions throughout history.  Investigate everything for yourself, and accept that the investigation may have to happen through non-conventional means if you are to reach the full truth. When you find truth that contradicts what you thought previously, be flexible.  Also remember that the fact that everyone around you says that something is true does not make it true.  It makes it what everyone around you says.

Spirituality does not have to look any certain way.  The expression of reverence is as diverse as the human family.  Do not judge yourself for not expressing your spirituality in conventional ways.  Some of us just hear God more clearly while we're walking around in the woods.

God lives everywhere from the sound of the leaves in the trees to the river to people around you to the corners of your own soul.  God lives everywhere.

1 comment:

oakritchie said...

I loves it, and I loves him!!! Some of the most revelatory moments in my adult life has been in conversation with him...good stuff!