Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Courage, Integrity, Grace, Beat Myself Up, Repeat...

"Be a leader, Zhao", I said to my super six year old as he hopped out of the car. "Help the younger kids learn to play like you do. The coach is in charge!". This is my standard speech, spoken every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon as my oldest son heads out to his flag football practices and games. My boy is just now learning what it means to be a leader. He has read about the Bible's leaders, in school and church, at home. He has read about football hero's who have given of their time and resources to help others. He has learned of past president's and politicians who have led our country, his country, with grace. He has watched his father lead our family and is learning money management, chivalry, and quiet love at his knee. But he is just now learning how to lead.

A few weeks ago my sweet boy had a rough day at school, complete with an email from the principal. While the stories differ, with my young son adamantly stating that he was not the "instigator", one thing is clear. Whatever happened in that first grade bathroom that day, my son did not lead. He either bullied or he followed. But he did not lead. And that's OK. He isn't always going to get it right.

A conversation about integrity followed that email from the principal. doing the right thing even when no one is watching is hard for a six year old. It's hard for me, sometimes. Sometimes, when I am alone with my youngest son and I feel myself splitting in two from his constant "I love you, I hate you" antics, I must remind myself, "Act as though others are watching." Not because I would do something harmful. Certainly not. But I might be a little too harsh. I might not give grace as much as my little guy needs me to. I might give up. But knowing that others are watching my actions, I would push through and just do whatever it was that needed done. So even now, at 43 years old, I sometimes have to remind myself of the integrity I wish to walk through life carrying like a badge of honor.

Earlier this evening I watched my super six year old practice his football moves. I watched him roll around in the grass and run into the woods, when he should have been paying attention to the coach. I watched him reach out to his team mates and help them up off the ground after a play knocked them down. I watched him run the length of the field next to a team mate who had the ball, cheering him on. I watched him patting his friends on the back and gently helping them click their flags back in to their belt. I watched him knock another boy down and attempt to sit on him. This leadership thing, this integrity thing- it's kinda hard to nail down at times.

When practice ended and it was time to head over to the main building for youth group my son handed me his water bottle and politely informed me that he would carry my chair to the car. Chivalry in action! As we entered the church he ran ahead, letting the door slam nearly in my face. A few minutes ago, as I sit here in the church cafe writing this, my super six year just ran past me with his fellow first grade friends, heading to the large indoor play area. He didn't see me sitting here, but I saw him. I saw him think about tripping the boy in front of him and then pulling his foot back at the last minute. Integrity. I saw him hold the door to the play area open for the little girl in front of him. Chivalry. Every so often I see the blur of my black haired son in his bright orange shirt race past the window. All boy.

Last week I stood up to a bully of my own, one who was disparaging my adopted children, and myself. I pointed out how he was furthering racial stereotypes and how he was just plain wrong. That is not me. It took courage to stand up and speak. But my kids need to know that I will always have their back. So I summoned my courage and I spoke my mind. Put me in front of a room full of people and ask me to speak, I am fine. No courage needed. Ask me to stand up to one large and unruly man and I need courage. Ask me to summon the strength to get through another bedtime with my sensory issues child and I need courage.

Both my boys and I are learning and growing together. I am learning integrity in all new ways. I am learning what grace really means. I am learning courage. And most importantly, I am learning that courage can be quiet. It can be roaring and amazing and it can take on the world and change hearts and countries. But it can also be quiet. It can be as simple as my thought at the end of the day, as I lay in bed and count the triumphs or beat myself up over the failures, that, with courage, I will try it all again tomorrow.

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