This past Tuesday night as I was doing the dishes, my daughter called. She’s a freshman living on campus at a nearby college, and she asked if I wanted to meet her for breakfast the next morning.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned, “Did you run out of meals on your meal card?”
“No, Dad,” she laughed, “I miss you and just want to spend some time with you.”
Sometimes we miss things as parents, and as people, because of the paradigms we have in our head.
Our team here in Ann Arbor did a refresher course this week on Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this week, and it reminded me how helpful it is to be able to change our paradigms (or mental models) on the way we think about things.
For example, ever since the Detroit Lions drafted Billy Sims with the first overall pick in the 1980 draft, I have believed that this is going to be the year that they make it to the Super Bowl. We only have one playoff victory in my lifetime, yet I’ve never wavered from the Honolulu Blue and Silver, despite the countless heartbreaks. No more. This year, I have officially adopted the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints, two teams that seem destined to make it to the Super Bowl, and I am having the time of my life. Who says you can’t root for the Lions and another team—as long as they are not the Packers.
A lot of paradigms get thrust upon us. Who knows where I got the belief that I had to only cheer for the Lions? I know that when my wife and I became parents, a lot of our friends said, “They’re cute now, but wait until the terrible twos.” As our children made their way through grade school, others would say, “They’re good now, but wait until they’re teenagers.” Our kids are 17, 18 and 20 today, and I can honestly say that they were wonderful at two and even better as teenagers. One thing my wife and I got right as parents is that we refused to believe the paradigms that others wanted us to accept when it came to how or who our children would be.
In the communities in which International Samaritan works, the kids who help their parents in the dumpsites are faced with a horrible paradigm. The garbage trucks rumbling through the dumps will run them over if they are in the way. This brutal fact makes it clear to them that their lives are worth less than the garbage they sift through. But then they are faced with a whole different paradigm when they are told that a stranger wants to invest in their education and that they can go to school to pursue their dreams.
Is there a paradigm in your life that needs changing? Perhaps Christmas with the in-laws doesn’t have to be a disaster every year. Or maybe your boss does appreciate you. What if America isn’t coming apart at the seams? Sometimes, we can find a perverse pleasure in really negative paradigms because it feels good when we find evidence when we are right. If you think that your kids are ungrateful, there will always be some evidence of that. But I guarantee you will find evidence that they are grateful if you change your paradigm about that, too.
As 2019 draws to a close, please consider changing the paradigm for one of 350 young people who will receive a scholarship from us for the first time next year. My wife and I became sponsors in October, and it feels great to know that we are making a difference in the life of someone we don’t even know.
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