Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Less Colorful for Their Absence

In February 1997, I had been working at my first post-graduate, salaried job for six months. My parents were coming to visit me in Atlanta, and--because I finally could--I wanted to treat them to a nice evening out. I took them to my favorite restaurant and bought tickets to see John Denver at the Fox Theatre.

As a child of the 70s, I grew up listening to John Denver. His Greatest Hits album was among my first. I knew that I'd found a performance that all three of us were likely to enjoy and bought the best available seats.

We had a lovely evening. John Denver stood center stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a microphone, and his voice was as beautiful as it had been in my youth. We knew the words to every song.

Eight months later, John Denver died in a solo plane crash at the age of 53. When he died, I was surprised at the extent of my sadness. Singing along to his songs always made me happy, and losing the creator of that joy made the world a little less bright.

Until this week, only one other celebrity death made my heart ache for his absence. Jim Henson's death at 53 seemed to leave a hole in the universe. I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppets, and his cast of characters are as familiar to me as old friends. Jim Henson made me laugh and created memories that will last a lifetime.

Every now and then, the death of a musician, artist, or entertainer strikes us in a more personal way. Certain talent shines brighter than others and casts a wider glow. Those artists do more than entertain us; they make our hearts a little fuller. When they leave us too soon, the world seems less colorful for their absence.

I am not the only audience member saddened by Robin Williams's death. His acting and comedic talents were extraordinary, and he gave many people the gift of laughter.

When the audience deeply feels the loss of an artist, the loss arises in direct proportion to their joy in his performance. Few performers have this effect on us. They are few and far between.

I'm thankful for all the artists who give to us by sharing their gift, and I'm sad when I must see them go. We lost another one this week.

Have you ever deeply felt the loss of a person you didn't know? If so, who?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What My Kid Can Do

Picture a "My Child was Student of the Month" sticker on a minivan bumper, because I'm about to brag. My kid has done something extraordinary--something I was convinced he'd never do. Overcoming the handicaps of maternal coddling and conflict avoidance, my ten-year-old now hangs up his wet towel after every shower.

I know. It's amazing, isn't it?

And that's not all. When he hangs up that wet towel, he also throws his dirty clothes into the hamper. It's like a whole new world with a clean bathroom floor.

At the risk of alienating you, I'm going to tell you one other amazing thing about my son. He makes his bed. Almost every day and (in all caps so you can hear my scream of joy) WITHOUT MY TELLING HIM TO MAKE HIS BED!

You might think it absurd that such basic chores are to be celebrated. After all, the kid is ten. He could have been doing this a long time ago. But he wasn't. Because I didn't make him. It was faster and easier and required no nagging if I just did it myself.

Talk about sacrificing long-term goals for short-term satisfaction. I did it all wrong.

Parents, heed this warning and learn from my mistakes: give your children responsibility early. They can do so much more than you think they can. The more regularly they do a task, the more likely it is to become a habit. The earlier they develop a good habit, the sooner you can stop doing their work for them.

With enough time and repetition, your children might not even need a reminder. You can remain silent while the beds get made, the clothes are tossed in the hamper, and the towels are hung in mildew-free splendor.

I'm willing to bet that you can beat my personal record and teach this simple lesson in less than ten and a half years. I encourage you to try.

If I get my daughter with the bed-making, towel-hanging program in less than 2 years and 9 months, I'll have a new best. I think I can. I think I can.

I know I can.