There Goes The Neighborhood:  Come on Over

A half-dozen liquor bottles were in view on their three-season porch, cigarette smoke wafted and the f-bomb was was dropped at shouting volume while I played in the backyard with my five and one-year old. There goes the neighborhood.

The next-door neighbor of mine for the past nine years sold his house. Then the rental sign went up, and the new neighbors just moved in.

My son wanted to “see” where the noise was coming from. Rather than peer over our fence, we introduced ourselves. Only the grandpa came to greet us, and he appeared genuinely warm through red eyes. He even has a grandson on the weekends who is the same age as my son.

The grandson was encouraged to come out, and he hit it off right away with my son. I’m a pretty understanding guy, and I understand the drive to indulge. I also understand the insanity that can proceed rounds of drinking. There are also certain behaviors I’d rather not expose my kids to at this age, but I said yes when my son asked if the grandson could come over and play. You could also bet that they were within my view the entire time.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” says Jesus in Mark 12:31. But these aren’t the neighbors that I want to love I think to myself in response. I was hoping for a quieter family, with two kids the same ages as mine, maybe even going to the same school. Heck, throw in a dad that I can relate with and invite over for BBQ.

He wants to teach me something else. Sure, these neighbors act differently that I choose to in my life now. They even look different than my family. So in order to help me find what He may want me to learn with this change, I think of what I’d like my son to learn.

Learn to respect people. Learn boundaries. Learn that underneath various shapes, sizes and colors, we are all really after the same thing. Learn to hand over the fear. We can love our neighbors without being close friends.

The thing with fear is that it is learned. My son wasn’t afraid of the f-bombs, the smoke or the drinking. Kids aren’t born afraid of people who look different than them. Even when you think your son or daughter isn’t watching, that’s probably when they are watching the most.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to go outside of my privacy fence to introduce myself. But I hope I my kids learned something from the action. I know I did.

Advertisements

Falling Down is Learning to Walk

Later this month my daughter will be 15 months old, and we are waiting for her to walk on her own. My thoughts swing from wanting her to be my baby forever to wondering if there is a developmental delay.

According to babycenter.com’s Baby Milestone: walking writeup:

“Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months and are walking well by the time they’re 14 or 15 months old. Don’t worry if your child takes a little longer, though. Some perfectly normal children don’t walk until they’re 16 or 17 months old.”

So she may be on the tail end of “most” babies, and I’m not (overly) worried, but the important part is her willingness to fall down.

fallingdown

May we all learn from the youngest among us. Babies fall down hundreds of times as they learn to walk, but how many say, “Forget it. I’ll just crawl for the rest of my life.”

None. Unless of course there is an underlying developmental issue. Babies keep pushing through until they get it.

Whether you are in sales, engineering, farming, a full-time stay at home dad, making your way through school, or even if you’re taking on a potential hurdle in retirement, keep the walking baby in mind.

We can all benefit from keeping the walking benefit in mind. Fall down on your face. Get back up. Fall down on your butt, get back up. Repeat ad infinitum until you’re able to chase or be chased.

May there never be a time when you feel like staying down after falling. But let’s be real, there are those times. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. My daughter does that, too. Just reach out, let me know what you are going through that compares with learning to walk.

 

 

Always Seeking New Experiences

The other day my wife and I took the kids bowling. We had an amazing time, and neither of us are that into bowling.

At age four and eight months, neither one of the kids had been to a bowling alley before. This was a saturday afternoon, and there were only about a half-dozen lanes open. The place was hopping.

The beauty of it, was the awe and amazement from the kids. Both were wide-eyed and energized from the experience. From zig-zagging the ball down the lane off the bumpers to the crash of the pins and the action of people, both seemed to thrive off this new experience.

This is the most amazing thing about kids:  being able to see the world brand new. There were no judgements in their eyes. They just loved being out there in the world and in the action.

bowling

 

One of my goals as a parent is to offer this to my kids and to myself as long as I am alive. New experiences not only help the individual grow, but they bring people together. The world has so much to offer.

And the truth of the matter–the truth that I sometimes have a hard time believing–is that everyday is a new experience. It’s easy to get swept into the rhythms of life and feel like you may be repeating yourself over and over. But today, no matter if you read this when posted or years from now, is a new experience that has never happened before.

I easily forget this unless I am doing something new for the first time, like take my kids who have never even touched a bowling ball out bowling on a Saturday afternoon. (I must also give my wife credit as this is what she chose as her birthday celebration.)

But I’ve found ways to inject this newness on a day, without having to travel to foreign lands or go somewhere new:

  • Try a new food, like something off the Korean menu you can’t even pronounce.
  • Clean that closet you’ve been meaning to get to for a long time.
  • Invite new friends over that you’ve never entertained before.
  • Exercise. I was going to write try a new exercise, but this doesn’t even have to be that new. I find exercise in general freshens my eyes to the world.
  • Be vulnerable. Share something that is bothering you or difficult for you.

Keep fresh eyes one whenever you can, for the kids’ enjoyment and your own. The longer I am able to stay in this state, the more open I am to life’s experiences.

I think about the value giving my kids the interest and openness to try new things, and that is something that is priceless. This is also something that any parent can give to their child, no matter the socioeconomic background.

A Friend of Mine Chose Not to Vote & I Admire His Tenacity

On the eve of election day, I asked a friend of mine if he had voted already. For some reason, I knew what his answer would be. Something inside me said that he was going to opt out of going to the polls at all.

He didn’t see “any God-like qualities in either candidate,” so he chose to abstain. He told me this with such conviction, admitting that he is absolutely powerless against people places and things, so he wasn’t even going to cast a ballot.

I sure didn’t agree with staying home from exercising my constitutional right, but I admired his tenacity for standing up for his beliefs. And his right not to vote. He then went to mention a section of the Bible that previews dark days before the second coming of Jesus.

Maybe we’re on our way? Or maybe things have been dark for some time. Just turn on the news or your favorite social media network to see the racism, inequality, poverty and hate pouring out of people.

voting-ballot

My friend wasn’t alone. Only 51-52 percent of registered voters turned out in this recent election. Maybe they too were handing it over to God?

I do know that this friend of mine is one of the most generous, caring and self-less individuals I know. He teaches music to kids and volunteers countless hours in service to others.

I’m so torn. It’s not the fabric of my upbringing to not participate in an election. I want to raise my kids with the idea that they can make a difference. That getting active in democracy will contribute to the greater good, but how do I do that when I don’t see it from the election results. How is building a wall contributing to the greater good of humanity?

We don’t need a physical wall to keep U.S. from its neighbors to the south. We have enough invisible walls shielding us from neighbors and potential friends. Whether you voted or not, we can demonstrate kindness to our children, so they can build the relationships of our future, not tear them down.

My neighbor across the street is a very quite man. His wife is disable and his two adult children live in the home, too. He took me by surprise the other day as I was playing with my son when he asked, “Before you throw out your pumpkins, can you save the stems for me?”

I did a double take and asked him to repeat himself. Turns out his wife does crafts, making ornamental pumpkins of some sort, and he asked us to save the stems for his wife. So I involved my son in giving the stems to him. It’s a small act, but my four-year old and I crossed the street together and brought the stems to their house.

I don’t care about his political beliefs. I don’t care who he voted for. I just know that my children remember these small steps of action. Joy was spilling from my son to visit their house and deliver the pumpkins stems.

And hopefully, someday my kids can stand with tenacity for what they believe in to break down walls, either physical or invisible to help their community.