On Wednesday night of this week, I was speaking with someone about being truthful and honest to the people in our lives. He stated that being too open can lead to betrayal and pain and therefore he doesn’t share his story for fear of being taken advantage of. It was a fair argument but I told him maybe his issue wasn’t being fearful of openness but being open to the wrong people. People we can trust, who won’t use our words and experiences against us, who will listen to understand and be a shoulder to lean on are invaluable.
Earlier in the week, I shared a fatherhood presentation to a group of fathers who have young kids in school. There were dads who were going in to work late and some who had worked all night diligently sitting there to learn more about how they could be involved in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to education. After the presentation while saying; “goodbye” to the fathers one of the attendees came up and began speaking with me. She had some questions about getting a father involved and shared her story. What she told me was hard to hear with many issues and other challenges she’s had to overcome. I couldn’t believe how open she was being when we had just met a few moments earlier. She believes I am someone she can trust with her family.
Openness, transparency, is something most say they desire in themselves and others. However, these can bring feelings of uncomfortableness, questions that aren’t easily answered, and an unsettling fear of not being skilled enough to meet the need. When these thoughts are rushing through our minds the need to breathe and be still must be remembered. Most people don’t want you to fix them they simply need someone to listen without judging. If there are problems to solve and mysteries to unravel we can do them together as we travel this path called life.
Last night Beth and I watched the bio-movie; “The Founder”, starring Michael Keaton. It is the story of Ray Croc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain. It is an interesting movie of how Croc took a hamburger stand, owned by the two McDonald’s brothers, and made it into a food empire.
At the beginning of the movie, Croc is a persistent, charismatic, but not completely successful restaurant equipment sales rep. While on the road he learns that a place in Bakersfield, California, has ordered six milk shake makers! He’s intrigued enough to find out what kind of restaurant needs this many and drives to their location. While there he sees the McDonald’s brothers “Speedy System” (where and how the workers are placed in the assembly area) and the unique layout of their restaurant which allows them to make “made to order” hamburgers in less than thirty seconds! Ray Croc is in awe and talks the brothers into letting him begin to sell franchises all over America. Initially, everything goes relatively smoothly but Ray Croc’s ambition, craving for money and fame, eventually drive him and the brothers apart. I won’t spoil the movie but it’s worth watching.
As I was reflecting on the story today I thought about vision and how it unites or divides people. It can be the vision of ourselves, family, community, church, organization, nation or world. Everyone has a vision of how things “should” be and some share the same vision while others oppose it. Competing visions can cause dissension and dissolution of connectedness and relationships.
Wisdom teaches us the more tightly we hold to our visions of things the more suffering we cause ourselves and others. Only when we are open and allow for the possibility of differing views can we be at peace with ourselves and others.
Wrong Way –
This morning, on my way to Bedford, Tennessee, I took a wrong turn, went the wrong way. It wasn’t the wrong street. I knew exactly where I was, where the road would take me, but today was the wrong time to travel it.
Some way, somehow, I missed the; “Road Work Ahead” sign. About a quarter of a mile down the road I had to steer around a large road roller. Then I came upon a road grader who was spreading sand. The sand was thick and difficult to drive through. Then, around the corner, there was a dump truck, in the middle of the road, putting sand on it. I stopped and realized I had made a mistake making the turn and traveling this road. I turned around in someone’s driveway, made my way past the grader and the roller and back to the main highway. I reset my GPS and continued on road less impeded by giant machines.
Wisdom teaches us that not every way, even the familiar ones, are always open to us. Some roads are closed off to us and missing the signs can make the way difficult and dangerous.
There are seasons of life where nothing feels certain. Times when you aren’t sure what happens next. Places on the road where the truth of life’s unpredictability is too real.
This is where I am now, at a place where many things are uncertain, challenges and difficulties are everywhere. Worry and frustration over people I love hurting and going through difficult times and trials, no way of knowing how it will all work out in the end. Concern over other aspects of life that are out of my control. Finding my way slowly and, at times, painfully through circumstances I wasn’t expecting or desiring.
In seasons such as these being open, staying open seems a humongous task. My wants and needs are not evil or bad but I know they will only bring suffering if I choose to believe they are the only way. Accepting whatever life throws at me, walking life’s path not being able to see far ahead, letting go of anything preconceived and accepting what is given will take courage.
It seems to always come back to trust and acceptance.
I was talking with a staff member today about how expensive the dentist can be when you need them. Loans and payment plans are often required when you have a major procedure.
My co-worker then shared with me a free service offered by dentists, doctors and optometrists to those who can’t afford services, lack insurance or both. These professionals come to a city, set up their equipment and for several days help as many folks as possible. It is not unheard of for people to get in line for these free resources hours or days before the service times begin.
Most of us aren’t doctors, dentists and optometrists but we each have gifts to offer, talents to enact, service to give. The key is focusing on who you are, what you can do. There are hurting ones all around us and if we see ourselves as having gifts to give then perhaps our eyes will be opened to those who are in need.
This morning I had a lecture to give in Nashville. I left early, as usual, because I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late. The interstates and bi-ways were filled with cars, trucks and semis. Traffic moved slowly in spots, too many traffic lights, lots of stopping, going, waiting, merging, until I finally arrived at the conference.
When it was over I once again turned on the handy-dandy GPS on my phone and noticed it offered me a different way than the one I had taken this morning. It indicated the Natchez Trace was only a few miles from my location. I decided to take this route. Exiting onto it I was at first dismayed when I noticed the speed limit was only 40 MPH! This was too slow when other routes would’ve let me go 70 MPH! “This is going to take forever.” I sighed. However, there was very little traffic and the drive was incredibly beautiful. There was no switching lanes, no bumper to bumper, only trees with a myriad of colorful blooms. It didn’t take long to get used to the slow and steady pace of the highway or to decide this is the way I’ll go tomorrow when I have my next session to give at the conference.
Wisdom teaches us that often it takes experiencing a different way to open our minds and spirits to the better chosen path for our lives.