Out of Outrage –
This week I read two articles about people being outraged. One was about the singer, Carrie Underwood, mentioning in a magazine that she was thirty-five years old and that she might be too old for her and her husband to have a lot of children. Fertility rights activists (who knew there was such a thing?) voiced their outrage on Twitter and in other online forums wondering how she could dare make such a statement. The other was about Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson going with his wife and daughter to an aquarium. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal/marine life defenders accused the “Rock” of supporting the harming and captivity of these underwater creatures. Let’s not forget the daily outrage of Trump supporters and never Trump supporters over almost everything the president does or doesn’t do.
Honestly, I need a break. I’m can’t handle all the outrage, negativity, vitriol being spewed out on, it seems, everyone and everything. A woman muses about the difficulty of having a lot of children at her age and a dad spending the day with his family at an aquarium is controversial? It’s as if we are looking for more reasons to be upset and ticked off at things. There are enough bad, evil, wrong, people and events in this world right now that should elicit legitimate outrage. We don’t have to search for more.
If we are outraged at everything then we are outraged at nothing. It is nothing but angry voices screaming at each other and no one hears, nor cares to, what the other is saying. Instead of getting upset and angry about everything, choose what really matters to you and do something about it. If you make a list and a thirty-five-year-old country singer and a movie star are on the top of your list? Maybe you should think harder.
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Black and White –
Last night I had the privilege to be the representative of our company as a partner with our local Housing Authority at their annual Family Night. It was fun, festive and hot! There was a balloon obstacle course, face painting, lots to eat, door prizes and giveaways. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
My booth was to inform families, moms, caregivers and especially dads how important it is for children to develop a love of reading. We had free books, zip line book bags, and special gifts for a lucky few. As I met countless people and watched the afternoon turn into evening it was nice to see people of all shades and colors coming together. It was also great to see community organizations, churches, other agencies give of themselves to a common cause.
There is much division in our families, neighborhoods, communities, nation, and world. Everyone sees things as black and white, one side or the other, friend or enemy and it seems there is no common cause to gather around. I wish I knew what that cause could be or how to make people drop their raised fists and shake one another’s hand. The world isn’t black and white. It never has been but this doesn’t mean we can’t come together if we have the eyes to see.
Watching Over –
This afternoon I ran into a store to grab something I needed. The place didn’t have the item so I exited the store. As soon as I stepped outside I could hear a toddler screaming. I looked and the mom, clearly at her breaking point, was fussing at a small boy and neither was getting the better of the other. Finally, the mom, who was waiting for the dad to come out with keys told this boy and his sister who was standing beside the grocery cart watching the scene unfold, to wait while she ran into the store. I sat and watched as she left both toddlers by the car and began to walk inside. I couldn’t leave. I thought to myself; “Someone has to watch over these kids.” Suddenly the little girl bolted towards the mom who was inside the store by now. I tried to watch over both of them making sure no cars were coming or that anything else would happen to them. After a few moments, the mom emerged holding the hand of her daughter walking toward the boy who had only gotten louder when mom disappeared leaving him in the cart. I left knowing they were safer than when they were alone.
This post isn’t about how bad the mom handled the situation. I’m not a parent and have no idea what its like to have children wanting, needing, things all day every day. It’s about helping others, watching over them, caring enough to protect even if the parties don’t realize you’re there. There are times in our lives when all of us need someone to watch over us.
One of the first questions I have, when teaching a new class or working with a father, is “Tell me how you express your feelings. Can you show you are angry, disappointed, frustrated in a healthy way or does it all come out as toxic anger?” Toxic anger is dangerous and greatly inhibits a child’s growth, impedes communication with others, and can lead to abuse and neglect. Understanding how a father deals with his feelings is key to understanding his relationship with his family, friends, and community.
One of the most common responses on how men deal with the feeling of anger is; “I want to hurt someone else. I want another to feel pain. I don’t want to be alone in my suffering.” This can surface in many ways, a bruising hand, a mouth filled with hurtful and caustic words. Other men leave and don’t come back, others come back but never talk about the emotion that erupted like a volcano. A lot of men simply get mad and stop talking, letting their silence oppress everyone who is near them.
Most men have never learned to deal, and healthfully express, their feelings. This is why for most men anger is their default emotion. The saddest part is they pass these traits along to children and the unhealthy cycle starts all over again.
An old Zen proverb says; “To hold on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
A Real Chance –
This morning our Fatherhood Engagement program hosted a Dad/Child reading event in an adjacent county. These are always a good time with a light brunch, puppet show, a reading time with Dad and the kids and a short lecture from me on the importance of fathers being involved in their child’s reading, educational development. I stress the vital role of moms and dads working together to give their child the greatest chance at their best life.
Last week I met a new client in his late 30’s who needed some guidance on connecting with a difficult child. We talked about issues he felt needed to be addressed and improved upon so he could be the dad he wanted to be. When we were wrapping up, I confirmed his cell phone number and told him; “ I have your next session set but I also text my clients to check in and make sure everything is going well.” After a moment he said to me; “I can’t read.” He said it nonchalantly and I did my best not to display any surprise but inside I was taken aback. This is one of those basic abilities most of us take for granted every day. I mentally added this to my list of issues we’d discuss and, hopefully, make a plan to solve.
I thought about this guy several times today during the reading event. I wondered how someone a few years younger than me could get through life without knowing how to read? Did he not have someone, somewhere along his life’s path who noticed and cared enough to help? The dads at our event today crawled around the floor with their kids, made paper bag puppets, sang “Ol’ Mac Donald had a farm,” and then were given the chance to read a book from the library to their children.
My hope is this event today would be a part of these kids developing not just a love of reading but a building of skills which will give them give them every advantage possible in a life that’s already hard enough.
On my way to a Community Action Board meeting in Centerville, Tennessee this morning I passed the sign pictured above. It is located in an overgrown, mostly dead, unattractive piece of land in the middle of nowhere.
I arrived early to the meeting and sat in a room waiting for the other members. Pinned to a bulletin board was a piece of paper which read; “Being a Parent Means Loving Your Children More than You Love Yourself.”
My mind went back to the sign I saw earlier. I wondered who put it there and what their vision of the “Children’s Garden” was originally? What happened? What stopped the seeds from being planted, watered, grown, cultivated, harvested?
I thought about our world and the world our children, and our children’s children, will grow up in. What happened to giving future generations something better than what we have? What happened to the dream of a brighter tomorrow? Where are the seeds of hope, the light that grows, the love and grace that cultivates, the harvest of peace?
Maybe if we loved our children more than we love ourselves…