Presence Equals Influence –
In a few weeks, the community organization I work for and a pregnancy center in Bedford county Tennessee will be hosting a breakfast for dads. I met with the director of the pregnancy center today to go over the details and take a tour of the facility. It was a productive time together and I was able to see and feel the heart of the woman who has dedicated her life to save every child possible, help every family possible.
At the breakfast, I will be speaking with the dads regarding their importance to their families, especially their children. One of the mottoes we use at the Fatherhood Engagement Project is; “Presence Equals Influence.” If you’re not present you cannot have the impact on their lives of those who need you most.
Presence being a prerequisite for influence is not just true for dads but for us all. There are so many ills in our society today. At times it can be so overwhelming figuring out where to start and what to do to help. We give up before we’ve even tried.
If our lives are to be a positive influence in this desperate world the first thing we have to do is show up and then believe we can make a difference with what happens next.
Drowning Out –
One of my favorite sounds is rain on a tin roof. One of my least favorite is the tail pipe extensions folks are putting on their vehicles. These extensions turn normal sounding cars and trucks into loud, ear-piercing, window rattling, jet planes driving by.
This past weekend we finished placing a tin roof on our porch. Last night, around 5pm, a thunderstorm brought some much-needed rain into our area and I went outside to sit and listen. Often, around this time each day, drivers of the above mentioned boisterous vehicles have gotten off work and are driving by the house.
Yesterday evening, however, I noticed the rain on the tin roof drowned out all other noise. The trucks and cars I recognized as being converted were no longer obnoxious. My closeness to the tin roof protected my ears, my nerves and the stillness of my spirit.
Wisdom tells us that presence is influence. The closer we stay to our source of comfort and peace the less distracted and deafening the chaos and craziness of this world can can be.
Last night I watched the movie; “Legend” about two brothers who were London gangsters in the 1960s. The titular roles were both played by Tom Hardy in an excellent performance.
The theme of the movie was the bond between a smart business minded brother Reggie and his schizophrenic sibling Ron. Throughout the film Reggie’s attempt to climb the ladder of the underworld and become, possibly, a legitimately respected businessman was constantly being thwarted by his mentally unstable brother. The movie ends with a disturbing scene in which Reggie kills a low life extortionist in front of Ron and when Ron asks why he did it. Reggie’s response was; “Because I can’t kill you.”
Loyalty is almost always a laudable virtue. We want to be the type of people who stick by our family and friends. We long to be seen as ones who are there for others no matter what, in thick and thin, whatever the costs, no sacrifice too big. As desirous a trait this seems, there are times when loyalty can be detrimental and disastrous. If our loyalty violates our principles, puts us in situations which keeps us from our purpose, stops us from being who we’re called to be, and should be, then our loyalty is misplaced.
I tell the men I work with, who are suffering from the disease of addiction or incarcerated, that one of the hardest choices they’ll make in their new lives is deciding which friends, family, associates they can no longer be around. They will need to make a conscious decision of who will and who wont walk with them on the right path. Even folks who have been loyal to them; if these people are harmful influences in their lives, have to go.
Loyalty is part of a desirable character but when loyalty to others means we are disloyal to ourselves a new way of thinking and being is required.
Yesterday, on my way to an incarcerated father’s class, I parked in the corner of a lot under a nice shade tree. I wanted to pause, take a few moments to review the lesson plan and still my thoughts. The weather was beautiful and I rolled down the windows, felt the cool breeze on my face and took a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air. It was a bit of needed down time in the midst of a busy day.
The moment didn’t last long. Out of nowhere a pick-up pulled rapidly around me and in front of my truck on the grass of someone’s lawn. Apparently he liked the shady spot as well and since there wasn’t a parking space covered by the shade he made one in the grass. I shook my head and tried my best to let his perceived rudeness, and the irritation rising inside of me, go. Shifting my focus back to what I was doing, I took a couple more deep breaths and realized the driver had also lit up a cigarette. The smoke from the it was wafting on the wind into the cab of my truck. Sigh! My irritation level began climbing again and so I made the decision it was time to go. I didn’t honk my horn, utter a harsh word or peel out of the parking lot, I simply left. As I drove to the County Jail I thought about the pick-up driver and how some people can drastically change an environment.
Wisdom teaches us to be careful about the people we allow to be influences on our lives. There are folks who bring love, grace, positive traits and help us become better people. However, there are also those who bring out the worst in us. Through negativity, hostility, insults of others, feeding on our fears, insecurities, biases and pain. They pollute our minds, emotions and spirits.
It’s not easy to begin filtering people’s influence out of our lives. We may be hesitant because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or if they’ve been a friend and confidant for a long time. However, the ability to discern who brings stillness, peace and wisdom into our environment and who doesn’t is important and needed.