Monday, April 25, 2016

Want to Change the World? Be Important in the Life of a Child.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a [child].”          --Forest Witcraft (Boy Scout leader)

Who helped make you, into you? Who are you today, because yesterday someone helped you grow up into the person God made you to be?

Because I know someone taught me how to swing a bat and hit a baseball, a coach many years ago, whose name I can no longer remember. I imagine on a warm spring day he threw pitch after pitch, while I nervously stood at home plate, so many “whiffs”, before I finally made contact with a triumphant “CRACK”! Someone was patient enough to read my pretty bad writing when I was a budding teen author in high school. I can’t recall his name either, but he was my junior year science fiction class teacher, the first person to inspire me to want to be a writer. He sat with me after class, patiently showing me the power of words to tell a story. I do remember a wonderful church youth group advisor named Becky who introduced me to God, not so much by what she said but instead by how I saw her treat other people, all people, with kindness, care and respect.  She was a walking lesson in what it means to be a person of faith.

I wonder if they realized then what a huge difference they made in this one kid’s life by being an adult who took the time to care about me. Someone, other than my parents or blood relatives, who went out of their way to shape the heart and the soul and the hopes of a boy, then a teen, then a young adult. Someone to be my guide. A mentor.  A role model. A friend. 

Makes me wish I could meet them today and thank them for making such a huge difference in my one life. Makes me remember too, that how I live as an adult, in the lives of the kids I am blessed to teach and pastor to and love—I’m now that older guide. One person who can make a difference in this world and actually make it a better place.

Not by making tons of money or crawling up the corporate ladder. Not by penning some hoped for best selling book. Not by having the biggest house on the block or the most self important title in a company or institution.  Not by staring at a screen all day and waiting for the next tweet or update to inflate my ego. No. Instead, as an adult, perhaps the most lasting gift I can leave in this world, to this world, is to help a kid grow up into the young woman or man God wants them to become.   

It’s always tempting, easy to think, that “I” alone made myself into the person I am as an adult. That it was my hard work, or intelligence, or luck, or talent, that got me to the place I now inhabit as a grown up. The myth of being a “self-made” man or woman looms large in our culture.  “I did it my way!” Right? But the truth is that all of us are born as bundles of raw potential. We are not made whole or finished by our God and Creator.  Always we begin life as green horns, rookies and stumblers on the road called growing up. 

That’s why every single kid in this world needs an adult and adults in their lives to care.  Youth in comfy suburbs and the kids in the city too.  We don’t lack for places to have that impact.  Sports teams. The Boys and Girls Clubs. Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Our local houses of worship. Charter schools in Boston. That list is long. Thousands of kids, right now, need someone like you and me to care about them.  The question is: will we be the one to walk with them?

One day you needed a patient teacher to help you figure out how to understand the quadratic equation.  Remember? You needed a Scout leader to show you how to tie a knot or serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  You needed a music teacher to show you how to play the notes.  You needed a spiritual leader to open up your faith life and nurture your soul. 

Someone—you might not even remember their name—he or she helped you when you were young. By caring, they made you, into you.  And now it is your turn.  Generation to generation the world actually gets better and is filled with hope, when we reach back and take the hand of a young person. 

Let that be our life gift to our kids and all kids.  Let that be our legacy.


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