What are you going to be when you grow up?

 

wholeheartWhat are you going to be when you grow up? What do you do?

Tough questions for any kid, and not always easy for an adult. People love to pigeonhole: the doctor, the artist, the nurse, the mom, the cop, as if that title sums you up and all their questions about you have been answered. But what if the answer to that question is qualitatively different– an answer that covers what you want to be regardless of whether you’re a kid, employed, unemployed, retired, sick, etc?

What if that answer is: kind and brave?

In a recent blog post, Glennon Doyle recounts a time when her son said just that:

When Chase was eight, a woman approached us at the grocery store and said, “What a handsome boy! What do you plan to be when you grow up, young man?” Chase looked at her and said, “I plan to be kind and brave, ma’am.”

This was just one of the best moments of my life. Kind and brave has been our family’s battle cry for as long as I can remember. And I’ve always told my kids that your job isn’t who you are. Your character is who you are. So when folks ask my kids what they “want to be,” they think character, not career.

The great thing about this shift is that my kiddos understand that their life doesn’t magically begin when they “grow up.” Anybody still waiting for that to happen? Me too. Not them. They know that their life is NOW. Childhood is not just a dress rehearsal for adulthood. No way. It’s a whole beautiful thing, all on its own. Childhood is just as real as adulthood. Just as important. Kids can be who they want to be TODAY. They don’t have to wait.

Chase wants to be a human being who is kind and brave and he is already that. He know that his “success” does not depend upon whether he lands some job or not. He knows he’ll be a success if he continues to practice kindness and courage wherever and with whomever he finds himself. His roles will change but his character will remain. He is already who he wants to be. So he can just go about being himself forever. Following his curiosity. One Next Right Thing at a time.

You too. You can just go about being yourself. Following your curiosity. One Next Right Thing at a time. Life starts now. There is no “When I” there is only “I am.” And it’s just as simple and hard as that.

Now take a look again at those few job descriptions above. They’ve morphed a bit, haven’t they? What does a kind and brave doctor look like, a kind and brave artist, a kind and brave nurse, mom, or cop? Suddenly the picture of that person has stretched out of one-dimension and become complex and layered. Kind and brave people in any role or job description and at any age have unique challenges depending on the circumstances.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

 

 

 

Smile! :)

snortlaughter

When its water boils, a teapot lets off steam. What do we do when we feel like we are boiling over?

One good choice is to laugh.

In this delightful photo series of funny animal shots, it’s going to be impossible not to crack a smile. Don’t even try. 🙂

What lies within?

lieswithin

What defines us? Is it our achievements or failures in either the past or future, or is it something infinitely more?

Perhaps it is the power we have within ourselves to persevere, to make the best of a bad situation, to look to comfort others even as we stumble. Perhaps it is our ability to learn in the midst of failure, to hope in the midst of defeat, and to love when surrounded by hate. Perhaps this, the indefatigable human spirit, is our greatest strength.

Finding home.

lights

Are you broken? Lost?

Lights will guide you home.

Consider the story of The Tenth Goose told by Richard R. Powell in his book Wabi Sabi for Writers:

Nine Canada geese lift off a clear mountain lake; droplets from their wings cast lines of rings behind them on the glassy surface as they rise. Light gray feathers reflect amber light from the early morning sun, a clean glow off each curved body. You watch their broad wings grip air, watch nine bodies rise and fall in rhythm against the dark forest behind them. Each bird’s neck kinks in counter-time to its wing beats so that all nine heads remain level and each set of eyes gazes steadily out at the cool dawn, bright mystery of sight amid the shiny black head feathers. Closer now, you make out the expressionless curve of their beaks, see one goose’s thin moist tongue as she honks; hear the whistle of air across wing feathers as they pass over your head. Then you notice that there is a tenth goose far back, low to the water, working hard to catch up, honking softly, as if each wing beat hurts. This goose loses a feather as she passes close over you and you watch the feather spiral and glide to the ground. You pick it up and it looks perfect, each barbule lying neatly against its neighbor, the tiny whorl of fluff near the calamus soft to the touch. Then you see that the shaft is not perfect; it is cracked open from the middle to the tip.

You keep that feather, tuck it under the strap around your car’s sun visor, look at it every day you drive to work and remember the tenth goose. Remember your own efforts to keep up. And somehow, that tenth goose gives you courage. You wonder if she will find enough food or if winter will separate her from the rest, separate her from life. She speaks to you in a dream one night. In the distracted moments of the day she speaks to you, in the elevator or while you wait in traffic. Then one night she is there in your dream again, as silent as her feather in your car. She tips her head at you and that beak, with its lumpy prominence like a Roman nose, bobs up and down and you realize she is giving you permission to speak. In the dream you speak and she turns her head to hear you and you tell her your fear of dying and your hopes while living and she comes and rattles her beak between your fingers.

There is beauty and strength in the broken places, a beauty that continues on even when everything is a struggle, that faces setbacks with determination. Sometimes we are one of the nine geese, sure and strong, in sync, but sometimes we are the tenth goose struggling to keep up. And there is beauty in that, too:

It is a kind of beauty on the edge of defeat, a beauty tenacious and brave, and it is the beauty left behind when the warm, honking goose is gone. And not just flown away–but dead and gone. That feather remains as a testament to the beauty in living; and even when the feather dries and cracks and is eventually eaten by insects or the drab extension of time, it will live on in the imaginations of those who hear the story of the tenth goose.

Remember the Story of the Tenth Goose and take heart.

And, for a treat, here is Coldplay.

 

What’s your problem?

problem

Who are your heroes? Were they people who stuck their necks out on behalf of others, worked to make the world a better place, gave freely and generously of themselves? These kind of heroes make the world a better place because they are in it.

You can be a hero. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing; it can be as small as seeing someone suffering and doing something to help.

The first step, though, is the seeing.

Why hold back?

afternoon

Does anything keep you from plunging into life? Whether you savor it, delight in it, enjoy it, or not, time will keep moving. You will get older; opportunities will pass. Perhaps it is time to say: I will savor this day; I will delight in these people; I will enjoy my time here while I can.

Advice to your younger self.

advise

What can you tell us? With all of your experiences to date, what have you learned that you can pass on to help others? How would you advise your younger self?

For many of us, that advice would be: don’t be afraid. In this delightful video, elders counsel their juniors with some gems on how to negotiate this crazy world.

 

SaveSave

Loving the unloveable.

morelove

Who are the people you know who are just, frankly, hard to love? Maybe they’re irascible or mean; maybe they push people away; maybe they are flat out obnoxious. Who are those people? Is there a way for you to love them? Perhaps show them compassion or tenderness? Sometimes the people who least deserve love are the very ones who need it the most.

Embrace each other and fly.

onewing

We need each other–our friends, our families, our communities. We would be lost alone. Consider this remarkable video of a seal who turned to a group of boaters for help when it was in dire need. (Be prepared–it’s intense!)

Sometimes we’re the seal; sometimes we’re the people in the boat providing safe harbor. With each other, we are capable of so much more than any of us is alone.