This is another one of those posts which is more for me that for anyone else. But, I hope that you can learn something from it as well.
If you know me then you know that Patt and I are often disappointed that we did not have kids. Lots of people point to time that we spend with their kids and tell us that we would have been great parents. Sometimes, I try to convince myself that there is some secret divine plan to allow us to be the ones who benefit from having the time to help others with their children. Other times, I joke that there is a secret divine plan where a great higher power knew that maybe I couldn’t handle it. But, if you read this blog then you know that I don’t really believe either of those things. Basically, I believe that you are dealt a hand and you play it as well as you possibly can. Who really knows?
That said, I have tried my best to find ways to leave a little legacy. Patt is the one who is renowned for doing everything for everyone. I get dragged along on those coattails sometimes as well. But, to me, everyone needs to individually strive to achieve their personal best and to leave a personal legacy. I want that for myself. I also want it to be something of more universal significance than to have people say “Boy! He built some kick-ass TV stations!” That’s nice, but I want something more human.
My wife and her siblings grew up in a very religious Christian family. That may not be the right environment for me personally. But, other people make other choices. So, I respect her families religiosity. One thing I often worry about with people of any religion is closed mindedness. I tend to stereotype people that way and it’s a bad self-closed-minded habit of my own. And, I’ve been proven wrong more than once. Despite religious differences, I have been close to Patt’s family ever since I met them. I love them all deeply. Because of that, I have been very blessed to count my nieces and nephews as among my greatest treasures. They have visited us and I have tried to do what I can for them over the past 23 years. I never knew whether I was having an effect or doing any good. But, I did what I thought would help them to mature into people-loving, open-minded, ecumenical, loving, compassionate, accepting adults. The 2 girls are now married to guys I think are totally awesome. One just this past weekend. One, married for nearly 5 years. Well… I was at the wedding of the newly married niece and was speaking with the older; and, I came to realize that I have actually been a success! That’s why I want to tell you about what was said to me to prove it.
The wedding was in Austin on a cool 93 degree afternoon. It was a lovely event. Denise, the older of my 2 nieces – now the mother of 3 amazingly wonderful kids – and I were reminiscing about the days when she was a child and I was her (hopefully) fun-loving uncle. I reminded her of the time when I took her 12-year-old self to the Portland Japanese Garden and explained the Tea Ceremony and the basic concepts of Shinto and Buddhism that play into the design of a Japanese garden. Upon returning home, she told her grandmother that she had learned about the Buddha and that he “seemed very Christlike” to her. That was not grandmother’s favorite saying but it showed quite amazing insight for a 12 year old. Especially because I never said anything like that to her. She reasoned it for herself. Well, many years have passed since then. I still think it’s a cool story but I never know if any experience like that had a lasting effect. But Denise and I were talking and, to me, she said this:
“I’m really interested in world history and international events, I always have been. I’m not sure exactly where that comes from. But I think the seeds it sprouted from were planted by you.”
I’ve smiled about that single comment ever since. It’s not because I think I’m such a cool dude, or that my secret inter-religious plot for world domination has worked 🙂 It is because it’s such a wonderful thing to know that you have had some effect on the next generation. I won’t get a chance, at my age, to raise a family of children and grandchildren. But I’m overjoyed to know that I can still be a positive influence. So, the lesson I want to leave you with is this:
Never give up on the next generation. Never stop believing that you can have a positive influence. Never stop striving to make those young people think broadly, openly, and critically. They may never believe what you believe. That’s not the point. The point is simply that if you can get a 12-year-old to consider a universe of possibilities than you can do your little part to create an adult with the capacity to give love, joy, compassion, and wisdom of their own when they take the helm. If each generation does that then humanity will survive.
Thank you Jennifer, Dustin, Bob, Matt, Jessica, and Denise, for being awesome nieces and nephews. And an extra thanks, Denise, for another divine spark of satisfaction.