Last week the boys were emptying the dishwasher and we heard Jack laugh and tell Luke, “It’s not like I’m flipping burgers at McDonald’s.”
That was weird. Both Tim and my mental alerts went off. We looked at each other and came into the kitchen. Where had he heard that phrase? Neither of us have said things like that. After digging a little further, we found out that someone at school was teaching Jack’s class about Martin Luther King Jr. The apparent focus was on what it meant to “have a dream.” Examples and anti-examples must have been given. I guess the lesson-giver told the students that, “Flipping burgers at McDonald’s is not a good dream.”
Tim and I tried to remain calm. We didn’t want Jack to think we were mad at him. We weren’t at all. We were angry with the person who decided to make judgements on what others’ may decide to make as their goals.
What a contradiction! MLK Jr, the very man who spoke against surface judgement, was being used as a catalyst to teach seven and eight year olds to rank other’s aspirations. How did this person know what went into deciding goals? What if a sixteen year old wanted to work at the local fast food joint in order to save for college, or work their way up to management and franchise ownership? What if an immigrant just came to this country and wanted to work for an honest wage? Would this dream be validated then? Who was this person to make a blanket judgement? Automatically, he elevated himself above another. His life goals did not involve flipping burgers so I guess that made him a better person. I guess his goals were more important than that, which made him better, elite.
This did not jive with us. And our child would not be taking life lessons from a person who seated himself at the head of the table. Tim and I had some work to do so we sat both boys down.
Me: Our job in life is not to judge others. It’s to love them. No matter what.
Tim: What defines you as a man is not by what you do for work. It’s not whether you cry when you are sad or if you are knowledgeable about car mechanics or if you can throw a football or get straight A’s in school. What defines you is how you treat others. How you love them.- How you see them. Everybody is our equal, even if they look different, do different or act different. The only thing you can control in life is how you act. How you love others. That is what will define who you are.
Me: Your dad and I really hope you chose to love others well. We can’t control you, only you get to do that. I hope you teach us how to love better because we don’t always get it right either. We try, but we fail too. The cool thing is that we get to practice loving each other. We all live together so there are opportunities every day. We can try to love each other the best we can. And when we mess up, like each of us will, the other three will give grace and forgiveness to that one to start over and try again. And then we can use what we learn in our home to love the rest of the world better.
Tim: Our love for you will never be conditional. There is nothing you can do that will make us love you less.
Me: If you choose different, even if you make choices that don’t show love and kindness, we will still be here, loving you and hoping grace bleeds into your life, like it has into ours.
We are surrounded by people who love us unconditionally. Some haven’t, but that’s okay – maybe they’ll come around later. Those that do, have taught Dad and I how great and hard and how magical it can be. Please choose love and equality instead of hate and judgement. If you don’t, that’s okay, we’ll just wait until you are ready to be pulled out of the dark. Both Dad and I have been shown the beauty of grace. Others have pulled us out of pits in life. We all need the love of others.
Tim: We love you both like crazy. More today than yesterday. Everybody has a right to choose their own dreams without judgement from us. Remember that.