Wasted Minds –
This has been a tumultuous week following the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. People have chosen sides on the gun debate and have used this tragedy as an example as to why they are on the side of the angels. I’ve seen countless posts about gun rights and gun restrictions. I have posted my opinion on the gun debate on my blog in the last couple of weeks if you care to know where I stand on this cultural, moral and spiritual issue. Everyone has their argument at the ready. They grab screenshots, tweet, put a photo on Instagram, use memes, videos and Facebook are so full of posts on the issue it’s hard to find anything else.
I think it’s an issue which needs many conversations. There’s not an easy solution and anyone who thinks there is hasn’t thought about it enough. What doesn’t need to happen is more arguing over the subject. We are a divided people in our country and it seems every “Breaking News” headline on whatever channel we watch, or website we read, erodes our relationships with those with differing views more.
Whatever side we’re on, opinion we possess, idea we espouse, we should also respect and love our neighbor. If we can’t then our voice is wasted, nothing changes and the world continues to go to hell.
Grounded, Simple, Generous, Controlled, Joyful, Present –
The contemplative life isn’t hard to understand. Most of the teachings can be learned in a day but they offer a lifetime of wisdom.
A few moments ago I was sitting on the porch basking in the sun. It was wonderful. I had brought my phone with me but not sure why. I laid it down beside me and closed my eyes. It’s warm for the month of January. Yesterday it was cloudy and cool but in that present moment of sitting on the porch, the skies were a brilliant blue. Our Siberian Husky was sprawled out on the driveway, not a care in the world. As I embraced the beauty and warmth my attention kept going to the phone. I knew there wasn’t anything on it I needed to read or respond to but the fact it was there distracted me.
This is why simplicity is important in the contemplative life. Everything we own, invest our ourselves in, give our passion, energy and time takes a piece of us. The more we have in our lives the less contemplative we are able to be. Letting go of all that is superfluous allows us to focus on what’s important while the fluff floats away.
A Real Chance –
This morning our Fatherhood Engagement program hosted a Dad/Child reading event in an adjacent county. These are always a good time with a light brunch, puppet show, a reading time with Dad and the kids and a short lecture from me on the importance of fathers being involved in their child’s reading, educational development. I stress the vital role of moms and dads working together to give their child the greatest chance at their best life.
Last week I met a new client in his late 30’s who needed some guidance on connecting with a difficult child. We talked about issues he felt needed to be addressed and improved upon so he could be the dad he wanted to be. When we were wrapping up, I confirmed his cell phone number and told him; “ I have your next session set but I also text my clients to check in and make sure everything is going well.” After a moment he said to me; “I can’t read.” He said it nonchalantly and I did my best not to display any surprise but inside I was taken aback. This is one of those basic abilities most of us take for granted every day. I mentally added this to my list of issues we’d discuss and, hopefully, make a plan to solve.
I thought about this guy several times today during the reading event. I wondered how someone a few years younger than me could get through life without knowing how to read? Did he not have someone, somewhere along his life’s path who noticed and cared enough to help? The dads at our event today crawled around the floor with their kids, made paper bag puppets, sang “Ol’ Mac Donald had a farm,” and then were given the chance to read a book from the library to their children.
My hope is this event today would be a part of these kids developing not just a love of reading but a building of skills which will give them give them every advantage possible in a life that’s already hard enough.
He hovered about as the other men left the classroom. I didn’t know what to expect, I never do when it comes to the incarcerated dads I am privileged to work with but who also keep me on my toes. He was tall, skinny, long grayish brown hair, missing most of his teeth and spoke softly. It was the first class of the spring semester and after everyone had left he came forward. He is soft-spoken with lines and wrinkles of a life filled with heartache and wrong decisions engraved on his face. I leaned forward as he struggled to tell me his secret; he couldn’t read. My heart sank.
Reading is such a vital part of our program and everyday life. There are homework assignments and times during class we read to ourselves and together. Not being able to read certainly presented another challenge for a man who has faced, and lost, his share of them including a drug addiction. I asked if there was another resident in the jail he could ask to help him and he shook his head; “No.” I breathed in silently and thought about the courage it must’ve taken to admit his weakness. “Then we’ll meet after each class and go over the lesson. Let’s start today.” We made our way over to a couple of chairs, sat down and began to review.
After we were done, driving away from the jail, I reflected on the different ways we can be imprisoned. It’s not just about concrete walls, bars, thick glass and heavy metal doors. Prisons can be addictions, basic education skills we’ve somehow missed, mental illnesses, bad attitudes, negative environments. Too often we take for granted so many blessings. The gifts we’ve received, the talents we’ve been given, the good, are not for hoarding but for sharing, multiplying and helping others find freedom.