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.
Today I’ve been thinking about the eclipse which happened yesterday. It was awesome and am thankful I was alive to see it. However, I’ve also been thinking about the fact that we see the sun and the moon every day. All we have to do is look up at the correct time, as with the eclipse, and we can see both in much if not all of their glory. What made yesterday’s event special was the two occupying the sky at the same time. It was so spectacular we bought dorky looking glasses, closed down schools and businesses, marked the day on our calendar and watched the time closely. All so we wouldn’t miss two objects in the sky, hundred of thousands of miles away from us, come together.
The moon is about 200,000 miles from the planet we call home. This seems like a huge number until we realize the sun is almost 93 million! Yet, for a few moments yesterday, the moon, which is much smaller, blocked out the sun. The difference is compared to the sun, the moon is sitting right next to us.
Reflecting on this I begin to wonder about our proximity to each other and the troubles we are all trying to overcome. Sometimes the obstacles and dangers we face seem so big and terrible. They are daunting and overwhelming until someone does something kind for us. Then, even if for a few moments, the act of mercy and grace is what we see not the enormous challenges we are fighting to overcome.
There are people we know who are fighting for their very lives. An enemy, a disease, a crisis of a sort that we ask; “What can I do?” The answer is simple; be kind. We will be amazed at the difference a random act of kindness can make.
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.