Those who know me and “Coach Jeff” will affirm that I see the glass half full. Many of you would go further and suggest that my glass is overflowing with optimism. I often say, “I have pitched my tent in the land of hope.” Acts 2:26.
But in the year of 2020, even I have wondered how we keep up that optimism. The pandemic persists. There are tensions among various groups of people who want to take sides. The unity of our democracy is being challenged. People of color and women continue to fight for recognition and equality.
The disparity between “the haves” and “the have nots” widens. In my view, all these issues are impacting the potential for our children to thrive. Children need our presence more than ever. They need us to address those social issues that surround them.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” As I re-apply this age-old advice to the current issues, I believe that acceptance does not mean approval, it means acknowledging reality. Courage requires trying harder than I have before.
Wisdom comes from opening my eyes, listening to others, and seeking the truth. Serenity should come only when my courage has allowed me to do my best.
At Be There Dad, we rarely ask a dad to do it all. We simply ask for him to contribute the time, talent and treasure that he can – to do his share. As a community of dads – an army of men – we succeed more than we fail because we come together.
Still, I believe we can do more. What if we all committed to doing our share … and then a little bit more? What if we committed to changing the things we can and setting the example? On Sunday, my pastor asked all of us to consider making the changes just within a three-foot radius of ourselves. Couldn’t I do that?
I cannot change the reality that a pandemic has struck our world and that many lives have been impacted. But with courage I can do my part to reduce the future impact. I can wear a mask, stay socially distanced, wash my hands and be an example for the children.
I cannot change the reality that people in our country have become divided – often for incomprehensible reasons. But with courage I can be tolerant, civil and respectful. I can be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. I can show children how to engage with others.
I cannot change the reality that some people in this country have been victims of systemic discrimination. But with courage I can help eliminate barriers, change perceptions and assist others overcome the obstacles that challenge them. I can be a mentor to help children navigate towards their life potentials.
I cannot change the reality that our teachers need more resources. But with courage I can advocate for more support through parental engagement. I can help establish, then encourage and enable dads and dads’ groups in schools.
Perhaps 2020 is meant to be a test for me. A year of disturbing news and social isolation. But with the isolation has come time for me to read, reflect and question. I have recognized a need to be a bigger part of the change that is needed. I have decided this is the time when I should ask myself how much courage I have. How much energy can I exert towards the things which I can change? How much more can I do before I accept things as they are?
Vince Lombardi once said, “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
Be There Dad tells us that victory comes when all the children have felt the power of presence. Our presence is needed now to change things before us. Maybe if we all took Coach Lombardi’s challenge. Maybe if we all worked our hearts out to make the changes that we can. Maybe each night when we all laid down, if we were exhausted from fighting the good fight; then, we could declare victory because the world would be a place where all children can blossom.
On Thanksgiving, as always, I will be thankful. This year, I will be thankful for many things. Among them, I will be thankful for the love and support of my family and that we are all safe and well. I will be thankful for the many men who join us as Be There Dads. I will be thankful that I have the energy and strength to carry on each day.
For the coming year, I will pray that I will find wisdom and that I will summon the courage within me to change the things that I can.
Will you join me?