“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This question, a classic of curious minds and a first day of school ice breaker, has become familiar to our ears since we can remember. I’m sure you have been asked before or have asked it to those younger than you. We hear or say occupations such as fire fighter, doctor, astronaut, artist, and even princess (A girl can dream. Hello, Prince Harry.), but what, or better yet– who, is beyond those careers?
As for myself, I want to be kind. I want to be generous, to be genuine. I want to be someone who is open and respectful of others. I want to be a woman of grace, of creativity, of truth, and of love. A woman who is not just “good” but seeks people and seeks the Lord wholeheartely. I want to be these things, and so much more than mere words can express.
We enforce this American idea of “success” (aka money and lots of it) into the very beings of anyone we think we can influence. We tell them what they should be, should not be, and criticize their dreams that are “too lofty” or “won’t pay the bills.” Don’t get me wrong — money is important. Having a suitable home, daily meals, and clothes on our backs is vital to our lives. Yet, what I am learning to be true (from a young 18 year old point of view, at least) is that being realistic does not mean we have to give up on our goals. Of course, depending on circumstances, our plans can be put on hold or altered throughout our lives. And that is okay and a little taste of what I like to call #reallife. But, don’t get rid of them. I beg you. That spark, that unique quirk of yours is where the joy happens.
So, between you and me — I challenge us to this: Let’s stop thinking of the very people around us as what they want to be and where they are going. Let’s stop encouraging, even if it is subliminal, our very friends to take the safe route when we see the spark in their eyes as they speak about their passions and goals. Let’s be the few humans that teach our children, friends, brothers, and sisters to be more than job or title.
Let’s stop teaching them that this life is fair and easy, and, with enough ice cream and ranting, problems can be solved. (I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.) Let’s stop teaching them that there is a timeline to life — education, jobs, marriage, travel, kids, etc. — and they must follow it to a T with no bumps along the way (Expect detours. Lots and lots of detours.). Let’s stop teaching them that they must have it “all figured out.” Who does?, I wonder. Let’s stop encouraging them to do what appears pretty on paper, yet at a closer look lacks the very luster that brings life. And let’s stop giving them all the answers and advice in the hope that they won’t make a mistake. Mistakes are inevitable and necessary and okay, and most importantly — not the end of our story.
Consider this: let’s teach them to love. Let’s teach them to try and to fail and to try again. Let’s teach them to be well informed locally and globally. Let’s teach them to respect each other despite differences of gender, race, politics, religion, or values. Let’s encourage them to not be afraid of new beginnings or hard endings. Let’s show them that their voice matters and to be bold in sharing it with the world. Let’s teach them to look at the interests of others before themselves. And let’s teach them that it is okay to be who they are at the moment. To not mold them into yourself or who you wish you were, but allow them to develop into who they were made to be. That person, when fostered with encouragement and gentle guidance, will flourish.
What would that generation of people look like? How could those very humans — our friends, children, siblings, nephews & nieces, neighbors, and all those we hold close — when accepted, embraced, and encouraged change the world we live in both today and tomorrow?
Oh, that, dear friends, is a world I want to live in.
words and photo by Cate Willis