"Just Keep Swimming:" Protecting our most Precious Resource
The other evening I was having dinner with my son (6) and my nephew (15). Our dinner conversation ranged from a debate between the quality of high school lunches from the 90s compared to today, to the value of making good decisions daily. It was a fun, future-oriented, conversation about lessons learned from humble beginnings. In short, I shared with the boys that's it's not where you start, it's where you finish that matters.
The highlight of our Back to the Future-esque conversation was when I told my nephew about those infamous hexagon shaped pizzas that were the staple for any quality lunch at Berkeley High School's annex cafeteria that my friends and I ate nearly everyday. He about fell out of his chair when I explained to him that when his father and I were growing up, we didn't always have high quality Capt'n Crunch cereal for breakfast, sometimes it was King Vitamin! (If you have any experience with WIC sponsored foods, you get that reference.) Nevertheless, the point I wanted to stress to him is that those humble beginnings aren't things that we look back on in shame (to date, the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever eaten were made with cheese cut from the government block that was often in my fridge as a boy), but pride. The lessons of humility, pride, work ethic, family, and community serve as the foundation of our character.
My nephew attends a high school that is a pipeline to Vanderbilt University, and my son just finished his first year of a private Christian school where he has thrived. As I think about the advantages that they have I'm equal parts encouraged and discouraged. I'm encouraged because through God's blessings and the resources we have, we can provide our children today with "so much more" than we had during our childhood. Hopefully the sons and daughters of this generation can avoid some of the challenges we faced due to a lack of resources in our individual homes or communities as a whole. That said, the world is very different in 2018 than it was in 1988 (when I was 10). Just as many new and unique challenges face the generations coming up now than ever. They live in a world that is more "connected" via technology, social media, etc., and disconnected - ironically due in part to the same technology that brings us together - than ever.
While we don't have the flying cars that were predicted by The Jetsons by now, we do live in the information age where literally almost anything you could ever want to know can be accessed by the amazing smartphones that are in the palm of our hands. Heck, you may be reading this post right now form a phone or mobile tablet hand held device. With said access; to resources, technology, etc., a responsibility comes along with it that we may often gloss over. It wasn't WHAT we had that developed the best parts of our character, drive, determination, and faith, it was overcoming what we DIDN'T have that helped push us towards our destiny.
My mother has a saying that she's prayed over me for as long as I can remember, "...it's not as long as it has been." That mantra was spoken when I was disappointed that I couldn't play youth football due to not having the registration money. It was spoken again when I cried out in disappointment and feelings of rejection while I lived the majority of my life without any relationship with my father. It was spoken when I felt lost as an undergraduate student not sure what my next step in life would be after graduation. It was spoken over me when I went through the joy of earning my Masters and Doctorate degrees, It was spoken when I went through the pain of being rejected from job, after job, after job. The wisdom in my mother's advice is simple. When we DIDN'T have, "...it's not as long as it has been." When I faced rejection, "it's not as long as it has been." When the difficult life lessons of patience and perseverance were brought to me, "it isn't as long as it has been." That advice serves as motivation during both my valley and mountaintop experiences. It's a challenge similar to Dory's advice to Nemo, "just keep swimming."
In closing, my dinner conversation with the guys was awesome. It allowed me to take a stroll down memory lane, and get insight from young people on how they see the world. The conversation also reminded me that as important as it is to give our children a "better life" than we ever experienced, it's equally important to recognize that there was life before the money, before social media, and before "the internet." As is often the case, the best things in life truly are free. Conversations with loved ones, growing faith by sharing prayers with and praying over loved one another, and laughs about shared experiences with WIC products and unhealthy public school lunches are all free, My fear is that in the increasingly isolating and instant gratification nature of our world today, we may be doing a disservice to our young people today who will be our leaders tomorrow. They are our most precious resource. Time will tell how good of a job we've done in giving our youth the full allotment of tools they will need for future success, "...it's not as long as it has been."