From Boys to Men

Boys to MenThere is a beautify that comes from living with good friends over many years.  A rhythm develops and a give-and-take grows from weekly interactions, soulful conversations and an ongoing, loving dialogue.  You get to know each member very well and they, in turn, get to know you.  They can see when you are struggling.  They can help you prepare when the dark clouds form on the horizon. They stand beside you when parenting is hard.  They are present during surgeries, illness and family funerals.  They love you through the painful days in ways no one else can.

And they can share in your hopes, dreams, joys and celebrations.  They relish in your successes.  They are present when babies are born.  They cheer when graduations occur.  They sing at the tops of their lungs during birthday parties.

They are good friends walking with you along this path of life.

I’m am so happy that I am able to reap the benefits of this relational treasure.  But with the benefit comes a responsibility that to the members of your group and the generations that will follow.

The picture on the left is from May 2006. It reveals the men of our group and young Elliott, then 10 years old, as we volunteered at a local women’s shelter.  That day we moved wood, cleaned trash piles and gave sweat and blood to the project.  In short, we all spent a fun morning doing hard work that made a difference.  Elliott is now 18 years old.  He donates his time to the church.  He travels on missions trips.  He engages the community.  He is a productive member of society.  And we were a small part of that journey to adulthood.

The picture on the right was taken last night (July 5, 2013).  Javier is eight.  He is funny, energetic, and creative.  The men in our group engage him in conversation, ask him questions about his life and love him like a son.  There is no way for us to know what he will be ten years from now.  But we do know that it is our responsibility to stand with him, to love him, to guide him along that path and into adulthood.

Over our many years together, our group has helped raise Eli, Abby, Jonathan and Emily.  Most recently, we’ve loved Benjamin and Elliott to adulthood.  But we aren’t done.  We still need to hug on and pray for Claire, Hannah, Javi and Mia.  The youngest members of our troupe, Audry and Wesley are just learning what it means to be a part of this odd mix of extended family: Aunts and Uncles that are not in their blood line but love them as if they were.  And with each passing year we will find new ways to engage, love and care for these blessed charges as we continue to engage, love and care for each and every member of our group.

May God continue to give us wisdom, patience and love as we live out this incredible responsibility, this amazing challenge, and this awesome opportunity.

Turning…Older

Close the box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to "close" all the numbers on your side.
Close the Box is a dice game in which you must roll the perfect combination to “close” all the numbers on your side.  It hardly ever happens.

I’m starting to come to a realization about life:  It’s one big Crap Shoot.

I don’t mean this in a negative way.  I mean that, in truth, life is nothing more than a roll of the dice.  You can be happy and healthy one minute and in the toss of the cubes, your life changes dramatically.  You can be working hard, paying your bills, involved in your community and then you get fired, laid off, injured, or sick.

You can plant seeds in the garden and the odds are that something will grow, but it isn’t a 100% guarantee.

You can teach your children to be responsible but their actions, ultimately are their own and you have no control.

You can keep your yard perfectly groomed but it doesn’t prevent the city from digging a ditch through your fescue.

Life is a Crap Shoot.  You roll the dice every morning that you wake up.  The outcome is out of your hands…But how you respond to the fall of the dice is another story entirely!

Four years ago, after standing in the sandwich line for 20 minutes, I blew up at the woman behind the counter when she informed me that they don’t sell half wrap sandwiches.  I ranted and raved.  I stormed away.  I made a scene.  In short, I was an ass.  Don’t ask why.  I have no idea why I acted that way.  I can venture a guess:  Stress, Frustration, Fatigue.  Any number of reasons come to mind:  Stupidity, Immaturity, Evil.

In what was the least important part of my day, I threw a temper tantrum.  I pouted like a four-year-old because they only sold WHOLE wraps and not HALF wraps.  The dice fell wrong.  Big deal.  But I reacted in a manner that was beyond inappropriate.  I hate to think how I would have acted if it had been something important!

But here’s the rub.  I knew I was wrong.  I knew that my actions were out of line.  And so the next day, I stood in line for another 20 minutes.  Not to order a sandwich, whole or otherwise, but to apologize.  It was an awkward moment for me but there was no way I would ever be able to face that woman, and all my co-workers, if I didn’t take responsibility for my actions and my reactions.

And here’s the best part of the story.  To this day, Caroline (the sandwich maker) and I greet one another with a smile and a hug whenever we see one another.  She calls me Darlin’ and Hon.  I just call her Caroline.  But occasionally will break out into my own version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” from across the lunch room.  We talk about her vacations and she asks about my day.  I am interested in her sore back and her love of NASCAR and she is happy to see me when I enter her line.  The other day I wandered through the cafeteria just to wish her a happy weekend.

My initial reaction on the horrible day four years ago?  Ridiculous.

My second-thought reaction four years ago and every day since?  Redemptive.

The dice are going to fall.  Someday, it’s going to be something that matters and the roll will not favor you.  A bad diagnosis, a pink slip, a burst water pipe, hurtful revelations, whispered secrets.  How you react is much more important that the final count on the dice.

Perhaps I’ve learned that much in 49 years.  Perhaps.