A Place For April

We each go through life expecting to be moved and impassioned by the experiences and changes we endure. It’s as if we anticipate meaning where there isn’t any and purpose where there is none. However, during our existences, we do occasionally happen upon a truly defining moment. These fits of complex thought and heightened awareness of all that is provoking, usually arrive just often enough as to ensure we don’t go all-out crazy. I say crazy because the strange conclusions and new-found paradoxes of such a moment can be maddening in a hurry. We find ourselves drawn toward a new purpose and a desire to do something other than what we were doing just before.

For me, one instance of hyper-awareness came on an inconspicuous spring morning in eastern Oklahoma. It was April, and rightly so, because my first daughter April Joy was about to greet her new family. That cool morning signified a paradigm shift for me that was so profound it has kept me energized, hopeful, and prayerful ever since. I began to look at the world differently. Though, this wasn't the first time my view of the world had changed. It had already begun to look diversely to me. I spent a year in Iraq which had caused me to rethink most of what I believe about our American version of community and our commitment (or lack thereof) to it. I found myself returning to many of my traditional conclusions but there were a few that I certainly found perplexing. April, my first child, brought perspective to my questions and purpose to my melancholy outlook. She has caused me realize that we care little in America for her future; that we don’t understand what is wrong with what we will be leaving her, and we somehow refuse to accept that it is not too late to create a better place now.

Wal-Mart, a grand highway, a plastic option, and sidewalks that lead nowhere just because they can . . . To me, they all share commonality in that they display through their subtle existence a reason to celebrate today – not tomorrow. We are a growing population yet we grow nothing we really want to eat. We are a creative people yet we create little worth keeping. We are an imaginative country however we lack imaginative vision for the future. In America, apparently we are all racing to the bottom to see who can get there first. Our communities lack taste, virtue, reason, meaning, culture, and most importantly the ability to survive. The weaker weight of life itself is too much for most of our roads, parks, and public spaces. They simply cave corrode under the pressures of time.

The consequence is alarming. We care not for the future therefore we care not to consider what we have today. We drive by on our 12-lane highways assuming that happiness must be just off one of these exits. We run (mostly drive) through life expecting to see reasons for hope but are disappointed because the last group that was here forgot to care too. Instead of crying out at the injustice of our predecessors, we marginalize and oftentimes romanticize our sub-par existence. Just a spoonful of sugar makes all of our lousy places see a tad more bearable, especially if you can get that in Cookies & Cream. While we were busy trying to not notice the world around us, time is creeping ever so predictably toward her future. Soon it will be her time to take notice. Soon it will be her time to judge us by our offering.

The end. Or so it seems sometimes. When I talk to people about how we plan to leave this world for our children, the response is… A blank stare would suffice, but most people chatter on about goals and dreams that they never intend to realize. Reality has a funny way of coming true. The trick is to learn that we get to tell the story. As far as I can tell, humans haven’t been beat at this game of life yet. Sure we have stumbled along the way, but a child knows about the pyramids in Egypt, the great roads of antiquity still lead to Rome, and our ability to love, protect, and cherish the life of another is still as vibrant as it has ever been. So why the disconnect? Why do we struggle to grasp our potential to do better? My theory - the one I want to believe- is simple but not entirely accurate. For me to sleep well at night, I have to believe that most people are simply not up to the challenge of working on a project for decades. But the truth is, no one ever is. Humanity without a passion for betterment is surly doomed to failure. My passion to do better is derived from my children.

It is my hope and dream that I live a life that is respectful of their existence – that I leave this world a lot better than I found it. We each have to let our experiences define us but we mustn’t let our failures define us too. My children taught me that it wasn’t going to be enough to just enjoy life. I know now that I am going to get to enjoy life by making theirs better. I feel like the luckiest person alive at times. Having the power to love someone is inspiring, but being given the passion to change their world for the better is awesome. I will be around fixing this place up for the little ones. If you see me, feel free to stop and say hi. I always try to carry an extra paint brush and trash bag.