June 5, 2015
When dealing with children, it is sometimes helpful to guide them to see that they have agency – the ability to make a choice. “Would you like three pieces of broccoli or four?” “Would you like five minutes of television or ten?” The funny thing is, those choices are limited. We learn not to ask a five-year-old if they want cake or broccoli. That isn’t a choice that they get to make. The true choice that we give them is whether they wish to throw a fit or whether they will choose to be okay even as they struggle with broccoli or TV time. The goal is to help them see that they have agency over their response.
People diagnosed with cancer do not get to choose whether or not they get cancer. All they get to do is to choose how they respond. This week I ran across an article from one of my favorite writers, Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthly. (If you remember the hilarious movie, Bernie, with Jack Black, he wrote that script). Skip wrote an amazing piece about a young man who was paralyzed in a football game 40 years ago. He has lived every day since then with his faithful mother who takes care of him. You can (should) read the story that can be found here. The title of the article, “Still Life,” speaks volumes to me. The story that Skip so eloquently tells is of a mother and son’s ability to choose to lead a beautiful life.
Such stories make me ashamed when I get upset over the little things. If the internet at my house goes down, or the traffic is too heavy, or if I experience momentary pain, I am liable to get frustrated. Have you ever thought about how crazy the idea of road rage is? It happens when we are sitting in air-conditioned cars with radios, cell phones, and we are mad that it is taking a little too long to drive the fifteen miles from Dallas to Plano. Would you have more fun if you were on horseback? Or walking? No!
We forget the lesson that we teach children. “Would you rather sit in an air-conditioned car on the tollway or walk from downtown Dallas?”
In general, you and I have less control over our world than we imagine. We have convinced ourselves that we can control our lives. We strategically plan five and ten years in advance when we have no idea what tomorrow brings. Such planning isn’t a bad thing, but you cannot control whether we have another recession or war or famine or drought or rain. You cannot control whether your business stays afloat or your own health. You do get to choose your attitude. You do get to choose your faith.
I want to leave you with some words that a friend of mine posted on Facebook after she lost her child at 33 weeks:
“We do not believe that everything happens for a reason. It was NOT “His plan” for us to lose our [child]. We believe in a Father who is crying and hurting with us. He will, however, offer us grace in the wake of our devastation and it is up to us to choose how we react. This is coming in the form of meals, flowers, care packages from people we have never met, messages from people praying for us, those connecting us with others that have felt this awful pain of losing a child and other selfless acts of love and support. So today, we choose joy. We choose sunshine. We will have to make that choice every day until it doesn’t feel like a choice anymore… and that day will come.”