Where You’re Going –
This morning, at a community group for dads, I talked with the men about the importance of “Putting First Things First.” It’s a concept which deals with knowing what’s truly the most important things in our lives and using those as a framework for how we live. When you know what’s important then every decision is made according to your paradigm, your life’s mission statement. If a decision is made that does not fit the schematics of who you are and who you want to become you make it right. Otherwise, you are traveling in the opposite direction of where you need to go.
Everything we do, walking the road of life, involves passion, energy, and time. We have limited supplies of all three. We have to choose how we are going to use them. Our life is a list of the things we do and deem important. The more items on our list the less passion, energy, and time we have to give each item. The fewer items on the list the more we have to give.
This is why knowing what’s important, where you are going, is a must. It allows us to make sure some items remain on our list, what important, and eliminate the unimportant. Direction is easy once we decide where we want to go.
Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.
The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.
As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.
Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Role Play –
Today I attended a training in Nashville, Tennessee. After lunch, when all of the information had been given, we broke up into groups for role-playing. We were supposed to use the tools and insights we had gained from the speaker and put it into practice. We would either be the client with certain needs or the specialist seeking to help. We were also encouraged to improvise whichever role we were assigned to best fit the situation we found ourselves. It was interesting. My introvert side was certainly not thrilled about having to role play with a stranger but putting into practice what we’d learned was helpful.
As I drove home I reflected on the exercise and stepping into another’s shoes. When working with a client the most important thing we do is listen, try to understand where a client is coming from and to know their story. Only when we understand our client’s history can we truly give them the tools they need to reclaim their families, places in society, their lives.
Listening, seeing the world from another’s point of view, is the first and only way to love another as you wished to be loved.
There is a family of Mockingbirds (https://www.google.com/search?q=mockingbird&oq=mockin&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i57j0l4.2524j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8) in one of the large trees covering our driveway. The parents are extremely protective of their little ones.
Late this afternoon, after spending most of the day working on a project, I set fire to a pile of debris that contained several downed limbs from the past month’s storms. I plopped down in a lawn chair watched the fire and then something interesting caught my eye. One of the Mockingbird parents was chasing a Turkey Vulture (https://www.google.com/search?q=mockingbird&oq=mockin&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i57j0l4.2524j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#q=turkey+vulture) who had come to close to its nest. It was dive bombing the much larger bird chasing it, harassing it, letting it know that it was a mistake to be in this area. There was something important and it was to be protected at all costs.
As I watched the Mockingbird triumphantly run the unwanted fiend off I thought about our lives. There are many things we claim as important, would declare meant a lot to us, but what would we risk our lives for? Die for? Fight against greater odds to protect and preserve?
The answer to this question reveals a good deal about us. Knowing what we’re willing to never give up defending gives us insight into who we are and what means most to us.
Yesterday, on my way to the county recycling and refuse collection center with a truck full of yard debris and household trash, I was descended upon by a small blue four-door sedan. I was going slow because of the junk in the back of the truck and then slowed down again when the speed limit was reduced to thirty miles per hour. The car behind me was in a hurry and even though we were on a small, two-lane, curvy double lined road and there was a car approaching from the opposite direction the sedan began to pass me! He didn’t have room to pass and no reason to put us all in jeopardy so I sped up a bit to hopefully give him pause to resume his position behind me. This didn’t work, I put on the brakes, he flew past me with not much room to spare from a head-on collision with the car in the adjacent lane. I was more than agitated and honked the horn while giving him a; “What was the reason for that kind of recklessness” gesture?
I arrived at the refuse and recycle center, unloaded the truck and on my way back to the house I thought about the sheer ridiculousness of the driver. He put his life, the life of the driver of the other vehicle, and mine in danger to arrive mere seconds ahead of when he would have arrived if he’d chosen to drive safer acknowledging the value of his life and those around him.
What if there had been a wreck? How many people, family, and friends, would’ve been impacted because of his impatience? Too often, we are only concerned with our agenda, our list, what we “have to” get done. Driven by our busyness, our over packed, over-stuffed schedules we lose sight of others and ourselves. The eventual result is wrecked lives, a loss of what’s most important and the love and grace we should have for one another.