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.
Black and White –
Last night I had the privilege to be the representative of our company as a partner with our local Housing Authority at their annual Family Night. It was fun, festive and hot! There was a balloon obstacle course, face painting, lots to eat, door prizes and giveaways. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
My booth was to inform families, moms, caregivers and especially dads how important it is for children to develop a love of reading. We had free books, zip line book bags, and special gifts for a lucky few. As I met countless people and watched the afternoon turn into evening it was nice to see people of all shades and colors coming together. It was also great to see community organizations, churches, other agencies give of themselves to a common cause.
There is much division in our families, neighborhoods, communities, nation, and world. Everyone sees things as black and white, one side or the other, friend or enemy and it seems there is no common cause to gather around. I wish I knew what that cause could be or how to make people drop their raised fists and shake one another’s hand. The world isn’t black and white. It never has been but this doesn’t mean we can’t come together if we have the eyes to see.
Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed. Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.
Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.
Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people? In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?
A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.
Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.
Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.
Perfect Timing –
Today was a great day for yard work. Our lawn has feasted on the rain and nutrients it’s received this week and has started to grow wild. It was windy and cool today and so I put on my blue jean overalls and hopped on the lawn mower. I had exactly one tank full of gas and it was enough for me to mow the front and the back.
About a third of the way through with the front yard I ran over some landscaping cloth. It was thick enough to get stuck around the blades of the mower. I stopped under our big Oak tree. I was busy messing with the cloth and when I was able to get all of it removed I was about to get back on my John Deere when I saw a long, thick branch just a few feet from where I was parked. Because I was under the mower near the engine I didn’t hear it crash to the ground but was certainly glad I stopped where I did and not a few feet further.
When I finished mowing I grabbed the weed eater and began working my way around the yard. The wind picked up and a few sprinkles fell and I wondered if I would finish before the rain started. I got through and was headed into the workshop as the rain came.
I had experienced two instances of perfect timing in the short span of an afternoon. Time is an interesting concept to try to wrap our minds around. We wonder why things happen when they do. We complain when we’re victims of bad timing and consider ourselves blessed with privilege and perfect timing when things work out for us.
The truth is we can’t control time and must accept with open hand the good and the bad. It is hard trusting the path of life to take us where we need to go and when we need to get there. Acceptance, grace, and thankfulness should be how we receive all that life brings our way.