I love new years…not so much because they bring an opportunity to start over, but because they add new layers of life and mystery and chance over the trials, lessons, and accomplishments of previous years. There is a certain optimism associated with opening your eyes for the first time on the morning of a new year. Even though I awoke in much the same way the 364 times prior, I had an old feeling of wonder and calm this morning that reminded me it was the dawn (or, more accurately mid morning) of a new year… a new decade. My mind started to churn through the possibilities of what this new era might hold, and Jaden ambled in.
I came downstairs with Jaden and made him breakfast while I continued to contemplate the new year. I stepped out into the front walkway and stared up into the clear blue sky. The morning sun was warm and a cool thin layer of air breezed around me like a sheer curtain. It felt like music. That seemed like the right type of beginning. I went back inside and watched Jaden finish his breakfast. I figured I would create a few new playlists since music appeared to be the theme of the day. Jaden and Dillon had grown quite fond of a few tracks on some CDs I’d received, so I decided to pull the music together for them on my iPod. I was feeling very good about this musical morning.
The boys were sitting on the couch listening to the tracks and a song they hadn’t heard came on. I was curious about their reaction to it, so I watched them closely as it played. They sat fairly still and just listened… about halfway through, Jaden walked over to the iPod and clicked the wheel. I wasn’t sure if he was going to change the song or if he was just curious about the title. He stood there for a while and listened. When the song ended, I started it over again for him. They both just sat quietly through the song… three more times.
In the afternoon, we loaded up the boys and a CD and and set off to my brother’s (and sister-in-law’s) house. We listened to the boys’ new musical infatuation Wavin’ flag a couple of times back to back, and suddenly I heard a sound from the backseat that tied together the thoughts and sensations of the day. It was Dillon’s voice. He was signing along to the chorus with a passion and conviction that sent my mind down a path. Hearing his voice attached to those lyrics spun me… I got choked up and even veered a bit from my lane.
The song touched him in some way and he found some association with the message. Clearly he has no direct awareness of or experience with the Somali civil war which is at the heart of the song, but he found great enjoyment in singing the lines. Dillon’s voice grew louder from the back seat, and Jaden’s joined in, “when I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom just like a wavin’ flag!” It made me think about the child in an environment that felt too massive or complicated to control or overcome. I thought about the courage and the will that must burn inside that child and lets him know that the situation is temporary and the environment can be changed, and that the child himself possesses the ability and strength to effect that change. It is amazing, the fruits of change that God can cultivate from the smallest seeds of hope and faith in the darkest and most barren of places.
Now, our children have never known that kind of oppression or fear. The hardships of their days cannot compare to the atrocities that other children witness and are subjected to. But that doesn’t invalidate the obstacles and challenges our children will face along their respective paths. They will be required to be courageous. They will be challenged and tested. They will have to navigate change. All these on a scale that is relative and relevant to them. Hearing them sing the chorus did not make me envision them as children of war. Rather, it reminded me that while the struggles in the song are not their own, they still encounter situations where they need to choose whether or not to demonstrate courage… and I need to be making sure I am modeling that for them.
It reminded me that I have an opportunity and an obligation to be a beacon of strength for them so they can grow their own and head out into the world and make it better for their children. It reminded me that there are too many children that do not have a beacon, and so we need to make the most of what opportunities we have. I am a generation whose parents lived through a significant struggle for civil rights and the extension of basic human decency from one to another. That inferno, while not fully extinguished, burns quietly now, and perhaps with that so cooled the perception that courage was still a necessary part of the American life. Our generation had thrust upon us a different model for courage early in the new century, and so grew our resolve again. I am hoping to find more frequent opportunities to practice the virtue of courage, and ones that rely on smaller lessons. That was the clarity I gained by the time we pulled up next to the house.
There is always a demon to slay. As much as I hope there is no great obstacle facing the next generation, I know there has to be… or else what would they overcome? I feel like 2010 is a year that has a very bright outlook and is filled with limitless possibilities. I feel like paths will be available to be taken. I pray I have the courage to take the right steps. I pray you do too… so when our children get older, they will be stronger… they will have seen the fruits of the courage before them… and they can be the beacons of strength.
Thank you for coming along for the ride… kiss your kids!