Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Do You Deserve?

Try it. Try saying "I believe the children are our future" in any conversation with anyone familiar with Western pop culture and a good number of them will finish that lyric with fine diva flair.

Those next few words, 'teach them well', popped into my head as I was digesting events over the past week or so, and I couldn't shake them.

First, I had taken one too many blows at work, too close together, and I could not distance my rational self from my maybe-I-should-throw-it-all-to-hell-and-move-to-a-cave self. Also, I was angry. I was so angry I couldn't put it on mute long enough to keep it from bleeding over into my conversations around the kids. Not, what I want to teach them about handling disappointment.

Then the explosions at the Boston Marathon happened. The news was shocking, the images disturbing and the reality a seeping memory come back to life, starved for attention no matter how well fed. Many of the same emotions I'd felt over my petty little business loss were flashing back at me on the news, but this time with justification. I talked to the kids about it, but nothing satisfies the 'why?' of a child in these situations. 'They didn't deserve to die, right?' the kids wondered. Of course they didn't. So how do you explain? What do you teach a child about a horror scene like that?

You don't always get what you deserve.

Sometimes you work very hard, you try your best. And then you lose and it feels terrible. You don't deserve that. Sometimes you go on vacation to share an experience with your friends. And then you die because some sick person planted an explosive near where you were standing. Certainly, that's not what you deserved. Maybe you're born into poverty or hunger or illness. You do not deserve that pain.

If I teach my children well, they will accept that despite their best efforts they may not get what they deserve. And that's no reason not to try their best every time; many times they will succeed. That's no reason not to go cheer for a friend in a race; many more times than not, there will be triumph. There is either sadness or glory in defeat, a stall or a march forward.

I'm going to teach my children to choose glory and hope. Because the fact is we are the now and the children are the future and what we teach them, not just in words but in deeds, will be the next reality. If we don't choose wise words and good deeds we may get precisely what we deserve.

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