That Moment You Realize Everything You’ve Ever Known is Not the Norm…
Recently, Linda and I were asked by our good friend, Nate Moore if we’d be interested in volunteering at a local elementary school to work with kids one-hour each week. These kids had been hand selected by the administration to participate in this program and needed a positive role model in their lives. Nate’s been doing this for years and I’ve been impressed by watching his contribution as he pours himself into these kids each week. He connects with them and imprints upon them not only his values, etiquette and work ethic, but he provides, if only for a glimpse, a positive male influence that they are so desperately missing.
Truthfully, this takes me (and Linda) way outside of our comfort zone. One thing that I’ve been slowly gaining clarity on over thispast year is that I need to be more giving of my time and not guard it like the miser that I can naturally be. I used to have this same issue with my money too. I’d guard it carefully and not rely on God to provide for our needs.
I’ve been slowly gaining clarity on over this
That was until years ago, through a melody of financial issues that had taken Linda and I to our knees, that we decided to abandon our way for good and give His way a go. We decided to faithfully start tithing and to get plugged into our church, Northpointe Community Church in NW Fresno. What a journey this has been too. One of questioning old ideologies and pushing them aside to make room for new truths and habits. Some 7 years later, here I find myself realizing that I really do have the gift of giving. Truth be told, this really has been a surprise for me and I would never stop tithing now. If that sounds strangely bizarre to you, trust me, I understand because I was you once upon a time. It’s been a life-changing experience.
Success Needs To Be Turned Into Significance
However, I’ve come full circle and have been becoming increasingly aware that giving of my money is simply not enough. It actually becomes easy and for a natural introvert like
giving of my money is simply not enough
me, I can contribute while remaining isolated. I can contribute without directly impacting someone’s life and getting into the nitty gritty stuff of the boots on the ground work. Making an impact is something that is resonating with me at a deeper level and causing unrest in me these days. Do I want my kids to say at my funeral one day that Dad was good at making money or good at selling or flipping a home? There is nothing wrong with that but what real value or contribution to humanity was that? My legacy needs to become one of impact. Success needs to be turned into significance.
I was blessed as a child even though I didn’t realize it at the time. My dad was a successful banker in his career and provided for our family very well. We lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood and my mom was a stay at home mom. I was lucky to have a lot of friends my same age that lived in our neighborhood and their experience was pretty much just like mine. This was my normal.
Mom was always there for me as was my dad. They both taught me the value of hard work even though I often strongly disliked the idea of hard work as a kid. Dad, however, taught me things only another man can teach.
Dad, however, taught me things only another man can teach
Things such as, standing up straight and looking people in the eyes while giving them a firm handshake. Through virtue of his presence and example, he taught me how to be confident and how to conduct myself around others. You have one chance of making a first impression and your confidence needs to be present but not overstated. Dad taught me how to use a level and hang pictures, fix drywall and install baseboards. He taught me how to install and fix sprinklers, lay brick, and build a gate. He Taught me how to replace the brakes on my car, change the oil, adjust the timing and the list goes on and on and on. I was blessed. I know that now. I know it was not normal but a gift from God. Thank you, Dad. I love you and I hope you get a kick out of this when you’re reading it.
Mom taught me different things. She taught me how to be compassionate even though I sometimes struggle with this (and she knows it). She taught me how to get things done and not wait, which is a trait her dad, my grandad, strongly possessed. As a fellow left-hander, she taught me how to utilize the creative side of my brain and to be artistic. To pick out colors that perfectly compliment a room’s decor. How to stage furniture in a way that maximizes the warmth of a room and encourages the conversation of your guests. She demonstrated to perfection, the art of being a gracious host and making people feel at home. She is a servant leader through and through and to this day role models this trait every time I’m in her presence. I was blessed, truly. Thank you, mom. I love you too!
Setting the Right Example For Your Kids
Mom and Dad also taught me grace. The lessons they taught me were by their example and as I’m now in my mid-forties, well, I’ve learned that that sharp edge that I’ve always had needs to be removed and I need to have grace and forgiveness for people.
I need to have grace and forgiveness for people
Grace that Jesus himself demonstrated. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard and an acquired art to be certain. An art that I still have a lot of work to do to achieve.
I wasn’t long out of high school, when in the real world that I started noticing that my upbringing and what I thought was normal, was in fact, anything but normal. As I went to college and entered the work world and began meeting different people that were placed in my path, talking with these people and finding out about them and their stories, did I truly start to understand that their life experience had been considerably different than mine. It felt strange when confronted with this reality of what I thought was normal, wasn’t normal at all. I became more appreciative of my parents and the life they had worked so hard to provide for my sister and I. For the values they instilled within us that in today’s world, stand out in stark contrast to what is now considered to be normal behavior.
The New Normal
Several weeks back, when at our weekly 1-hour meeting with the 5th and 6th-grade boys that Nate and I are working with, Nate had the boys write their stories out on a piece of paper. They were guided by questions in certain areas to get them started. We talked to them about the power of their own unique stories and I watched as they wrote, seemingly reflective of my own story. When they were done, they were each given the opportunity to stand up at the front of the room and read their story to the rest of the group.
We told each of them to stand up straight, introduce themselves and then read their story to the group. And, they were excited to do so. As I listened to each boy, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring theme amongst each of them. That theme was one of the total lack of male involvement in their lives. Most don’t have a father living in their homes or even present in their lives. As one boy read his story, he reflected that his best memories were those when his father lived in the same house with him and when he was able to spend time with his dad. His least favorite times are now because he doesn’t see his dad anymore and he misses him. My heart broke for him in that moment.
My heart broke for him in that moment
The pain was evident if you looked just below the surface and I found my thoughts drifting back to the epiphany I had had as a young man when I realized my own experience was not that of the norm at all.
This program and the things Nate has been working with these boys on, well, these are the things that truthfully only a man can authentically teach. How to tie a necktie and what it means to be gentlemen. How to be respectful to others and tolerant of their differences from you. How to be confident and shake someone’s hand, and look them in the eye, and many, many other truly valuable things. I feel blessed that Nate invited me to do this with him. If any of you reading this ever feel compelled to help in a similar way, reach out to me and let’s have a conversation.
For each boy, reading his story in front of the group was a big moment for him. Although I’ve only known these kids for about a month now, I felt proud of them and honored to be there with them. For 1-hour each week, just maybe, I can in some way help to impact and shape their lives moving forward.
All the best,