I watched a video this week about an important military leader giving graduates a piece of advice. He said; “If you want to change your life, improve your life, make your bed every morning.” He went on to elaborate and talked about how a simple disciplined act at the beginning of your day can positively shape your day, your week, your life. I’m not sure I bought all of what he was selling but I do think good choices today lead to good results tomorrow.
Tonight I spoke to a group of guys who have each made the decision over the last two months to come to class and learn how to be better men and better dads. I tell them each week it starts with; “Good choices which lead to being good men and then good dads. It all starts with the choices you make today and they determine the type of man you will be tomorrow.”
Moments, hours, days, years from now, when we lay in a box and people stand over us staring, what will they say? A lot of what is said will be determined by the decisions we make presently, the routine of our everyday life.
This morning one of my lectures at a rehabilitation clinic was double booked which gave me a free hour until it was time for the second lecture. I needed to pick up a few items at a store so I decided this was a good time. I parked and went inside. Entering the store, through sliding glass doors, an employee was crossing in front of the doors and underestimated how much time she had until we occupied the same space. When it became obvious we were headed to a collision course we altered our current paths. We side-stepped each other and when we did a case for glasses the employee was carrying dropped from her hand and went bouncing on the floor. “Excuse me. I’m sorry.” I said. She replied it was ok and picked up her case. “Good thing you had that case!” I chirped “It sure was!” she said smiling and we parted ways.
Walking through the store and collecting the items on my mental shopping list I thought about the employee and her glasses case. One of the phrases I use when speaking to groups about healthy children and families is called; “Protective Factors.”
Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that, when present, mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=protective%20factors)
Protective Factors shape the way we see the world, dictate a lot of our behaviors and coping abilities. The fewer protective factors the more hostile the world looks and this shapes our lives, who we are, in the deepest part of us.
The second lecture went well. Part of my presentation is to ask; “How many of the attendees come from families where drugs and alcohol were abused, physical violence, negligence, abandonment was part of their childhood?” It’s always humbling to see how many raise their hands. We then talk about how our past can determine the way we see the world, how we think and make decisions in the present. I spend the rest of the lecture, hopefully, helping them see how to begin to build protective factors into their and their family’s lives.
Pauses and Spaces –
I worked with a dad today who struggles with addiction issues. He kept repeating the Twelve Step oft heard phrase; “Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray, Pause and Pray.” It is the addict’s response if they’re tempted to drink, use drugs, get angry, make poor decisions. They are to take a breath and then breathe a word of prayer for peace and guidance.
I use the phrase; “The space in between.” Life is made up of experiences. We’re blind to most of them because we’ve become used to them, take them for granted. There are times however when an experience happens and our choice of what to do or not do, how to react, make the wrong, right or better choice could greatly impact our lives and the ones we hold dear. It is in the space between what happens to us and our choice of how to respond where our future is forged.
Whether; “pause and pray” or “the space between,” we choose to shape the experiences of our lives or be shaped by them.
Last week, while mowing the grass, I ran over a large rock and bent one of the blades. I could tell something was wrong by the sound of metal rubbing against metal. On Thursday, with two newly purchased blades in hand, I replaced the old blades. When I took the old ones off I was shocked by how beat up, worn down, twisted and broken they were. I had noticed the last few weeks the lawn wasn’t cut as cleanly and evenly as it should be but had no sense the blades were in that bad of shape. After I had the new ones firmly affixed to the mower I took them out for a test spin. The difference was incredible! The yard looks better today than it has in a long time.
As I finished up mowing I reflected upon the fact that all of the damage done to the blades hadn’t been done by a single rock. The mower’s manual says I should regularly check and sharpen them to ensure their effectiveness but it’s easier to just turn the mower on, start cutting and settle for mediocrity.
Wisdom teaches us that we too need to set aside extra time to keep ourselves sharp, clean, balanced and whole.
Too often we wear ourselves out, do our best to keep going with broken, damaged, unstable lives and sooner or later it shows. Setting aside extended moments, seasons and occasions to repair and recover from the damages life can bring is essential to love, serve and fulfill our purpose.