I was listening to an incarcerated man speak about his children last week; “This is my life. It is what I’ve always wanted. Not jail but respect. To get the respect I had to do things which would take me to jail. When my boy grows up if this is the life he lives I will respect him and we’ll rule the jail together.” To hear him hurt my heart. He had decided there was a certain path he, and his family, had no choice to follow to achieve his goal; respect. He didn’t realize it but he was talking about fate.
The dictionary defines fate; “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.” For this man, the family he was born into, the house he grew up in, the neighborhood he roamed as an adolescent, the laws and societal norms he broke to fit in, powers beyond his control, all came together to put him on the path of being incarcerated. It was his fate and the presumably the fate of his children as well.
Wisdom tells us there are two circles; a large one and a small one. The large one is the things we cannot control; events, tragedies, positive occurrences and negative influences, most of life fits in this circle. The smaller circle are things we can control; choices, habits, reactions, responses to the negative influences and the positive occurrences. There is much out of control and life can seem overwhelming and chaotic. How do we find the right path in a world full of greed, hate, and evil? How do we know what’s right when a lot of things seem headed in the wrong direction? Or, are we fated to walk a certain path because of where we were born and to whom, grew up, genetics, role models?
The power to choose, to react, respond to the life that is given to us is great. It cannot stop tragedies, events, life from happening but it can decide how these things which are out of our control impact us. Life seems easier for some than others. Privilege is real. However, it doesn’t define us unless we allow it to set our course.
All that Glitters –
Today, before an addiction lecture, I sat and chatted in a room with several men. One of them was an intelligent, well spoken, good looking older gentleman. He asked good questions, had a gregarious personality and didn’t fit with the rest of the mostly younger, lower class, good ol’ boys who occupied the room.
After the lecture, he came up to me shook my hand and I asked him; “What is your occupation?” He replied; “I am, was, a dentist. I’m hoping to practice again, but we’ll have to wait and see.” We talked a little more, he left and flashed a perfect smile with straight, bright white teeth, as he departed.
To look at this man, one would not think drug addict, alcoholic. One would think of a big house, nice car, country club, kind of life. One would be very wrong. He didn’t have much of anything in the way of material wealth and was sharing life, going to group, sleeping, in a room with meth heads, cocaine addicts, drunkards, pill poppers. At his core, he was exactly like them.
Wisdom tells us to be extra cautious judging the outward appearance of a person. No matter what one looks like we do not know their story, the battles they’ve fought, what they’ve possessed and have had taken away.
“But for the grace of God, go I.” But for the grace of God, goes us all.”