“What is the one thing you would want your kids to say you taught them?” The question was suspended for a minute. I fought the urge to provide an expected answer and finally settled on the first thing that popped into my mind.
“I guess it might be to believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”
Silence… not what I was hoping for… She was chewing on my answer or more likely considering how to respond in a gracious way.
I was talking with my dear family friend (and talented counselor), Jennifer, on the phone about creating a family mission statement.
“Well…” she broke out of her pause… “That is going to be a heavy burden for them to carry…” another pause for me to take in her words… the phone is awkward in this way because there are no expressions to lighten or to temper tones of an exchange like ours.
I tried not to sound defensive or a little embarrassed by the shallowness of my answer, “But I think it is important for them to understand that if they can imagine something — it can likely be accomplished.” Her response seemed to pursue my last word like a predator chasing lamed prey… “Well, what your teaching them may not be true… if they have bad vision they will never be a fighter pilot, if they have an ACL injury they will never be a world class sprinter, if math is difficult for them they won’t get into MIT… people do have physical limitations.”
She was right. As the conversation continued, she drew out my more meaningful and spiritual aspirations. But I was taken back at how the themes of accomplishment, achievement and success sat so close to the surface.
My dad died when I was in my early twenties. He was a talented salesman, a successful small business owner, a gifted educator, a winning coach, and I absolutely remembered him for none of those accomplishments… he taughtus about grace, love, generosity and giving by simply being with us. In a culture obsessed with success, achievement and accomplishment… I can tell you that when I think of my dad — his 1989 Salesman of the Year trophy (which resides in some storage bin down on the unfinished side of my basement) never ever crosses my mind…
Sometimes I think I live in the idolatry of doing, as evidenced by my initial response to Jennifer, but the essence of real life, genuine moments of meaning, and encounters with lasting joy are glaringly not related to ouraccomplishments, but secured in the immeasurable investments we make in each other.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” – John 15