|Where I was sitting as my clothes washed at the laundromat when Mike thanked me.|
“I appreciate you wouldn't enable me.” - Mike
My friend Mike whose put himself through quite some trials.
This touched my heart when Mike spoke these words to me.
He had just shared with me about a job he was excited about starting.
He'd been hustling on the street doing things that are mostly illegal, being reluctant join his dad in his business, clean himself up and get an honest job / vocation / means.
I can relate too well with some of Mike's past.
I had befriended Mike despite his gangster swagger and tattooed face and body.
After handing him funds on two occasions when he asked for a handout, I corrected his third request.
At first his reaction had a touch of anger and sense of being insulted.
I added that he needs to consider where he will be in a few months or years from now... and that continuously asking for money, or hustling on the street while making excuses and blaming others, is not much of a future nor a solution to remedy his present situation.
It wasn't easy refusing his request, for one never knows how anyone will react when confronted with some hard truths and firm words no matter how kind and lovingly the message is delivered.
So recently after Mike shared his joy and surprise that he landed a decent paying job complimenting the skills he learned in the Marines... and thanking me with his words I quoted above, I felt the kiss of God's grace upon my lips.
When we reflect the popular culture around us, whether it is sagging our pants or repeating a low-brow vernacular, we shouldn't be surprised when opportunities for serious employment (or interaction with mature people) seem to pass us by.
Certain life lessons have yet to be learned.
When emulating a depraved culture, one shouldn't be surprised when the affluent avoid you like the plague... perhaps out of fear of not knowing one's motives, or maybe because your exterior represents a troubled culture.
The promotion of rebelliousness makes evident the depravity in popular culture.
This common denominator of banal humanity is sadly continuously marketed, emulated and honored.
I was once there myself.
No single individual experienced a perfect upbringing (childhood), since we are all humans and humans are fallible.
Our parents / guardians made mistakes although some of them arguably always did their best.
Sadly some parents neglected their children, or were more harsh than gracious... and the list can be never-ending counting the grievances a child may have against their parent / guardian.
We are the product of our upbringing in every way.
We are also the response to and reflection of that upbringing.
Although we as individuals usually reflect our upbringing in our character, external blame can only go so far.
We eventually have to take responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions.
Yet we may find ourselves still, even after a long life of living, somehow blaming others (or making excuses) for our fragmented character or current life result.
I remember realizing this stark reality when at age 16 my aunt told me “okay, so now that you know, what are you going to do about it?”
I had lamented to her that I realize my character traits and faults are a combination of the traits learned from my mom and dad.
When she taught me this eye-opening lesson with her words, one which I am forwarding and will repeat in this blog post, I also had a tough time wrestling with anger and insult.
But she wasn't insulting me nor trying to make me angry.
She was telling me her honest observation and what she had also learned in her life experience before me.
The truth of the matter is what caused me to emotionally respond as such.
The reflection in the mirror wasn't pleasant at first.
One can only blame their parents for so much, and sure it is tempting to scapegoat parents or others for the rest of one's life and for one's problems... but that is not only unfair, it is absolutely unreasonable considering we have choice and life is about learning and growing.
My aunt clarified that I simply cannot continue to blame them for the choices I was to make from that moment of understanding forward.
I continue to learn that I cannot blame anyone (the government, popular culture, etc.) for my current situation when I have the choice to watch television or read a book, or choose a certain employment over another, or do something on my own.
Although we had no choice in being born, or the upbringing (relatives and cultural situation) we experienced, we do have choice in the kind of friends we have around us.
Only in prison, for example, do you have little to no choice the kind of people who are around you... yet even in prison you have a choice regarding who YOU become and what thoughts you allow to filtrate through your psyche and which you disallow.
I surely cannot blame anyone now that I am an adult and have my choices and subsequent consequences to deal with.
So it was quite a personal moment of gratitude from my heart to the Lord God Almighty when I heard that “thank you” from Mike.
May the Name of the Holy Father be forever praised!