The greatest crime in the world is not developing your potential. When you do what you do best, you are helping not only yourself, but the world." -- Roger Williams
How does that look to you? Mr. Williams believes that in every person lies ‘potential’ -- A potential that should work not only for you but for others or the larger world as well. Beautiful, isn’t it? Let me tell you a story.
My friend though, who isn’t in my regular company of crazy loony passionate life-loving ladies, likes to call it ‘crap’ (a favorite expression to her). She has a 17 year old son who is close to dropping out of high school – skipping classes, bumming around with odd friends, and defying authority – that she expects him to end up a big pathetic good-for-nothing bum for life. She has two other children who are doing quite well on their own and she’s so pleased with that, obviously.
I’ve met the kid on occasional visits to their home. Yeah, he does look strange with his odd-looking clothes, tattoo on his arm, and spiked orange-streaked hair. But you know what – he’s good at the computer! So I took the chance and asked him to work out something for me with my project. There I sat with him for two straight hours as he taught me the intricacies of that particular software which befuddled my brains before I met him. At the end of the session, I looked him in the eye (beautiful eyes like his mom) and told him ‘You’re good!’ He smiled and there I saw a hint of a glimmer in his eye – a very pleased and happy glimmer.
Back in my house, I couldn’t take the kid out of my mind.
While I was there sitting beside him at the computer as he went through the process of setting up my project, I noticed how clear he was in his instructions and teaching – that he didn’t miss a point which he thought I should understand and learn well. He firmly engaged me in the learning by making me do some tasks while he watched. Truth is, I was enjoying the whole thing, it was fantastic, in fact! He was a good teacher and apparently knew his stuff well.
So I had an idea.
On that weekend, Sunday to be exact, I invited his mother to lunch at a favorite restaurant at the mall. It was the place to go for a perfect plate of ‘seafood pasta’. Indeed. We emptied our plates savored every bit and ended up quite sated and content. Of course a good meal is always punctuated with a good hot cup of coffee—cappuccino for me natur’ly.
Midway through my coffee, I asked ‘How’s Raul?’
‘As usual he didn’t come home last night. Some gig somewhere at a friend’s house’ She muttered exasperated under her breath.
‘You know, he did well with my project. The kid knows so much more than you give him credit for.’ I said quite frankly as I put my cup down.
‘Indeed!’ She replied shrugging her shoulders and sipped her coffee.
Now if there is something which easily gets my goat - it’s a parent who does NOT appreciate her child or children. You see, there’s so much good forming in those young minds to start with (God made sure of that) and if given the chance will develop and mature into something so grand and amazing. But it has to be helped along – Now who else to do that but one’s mother or father. Parents! Funny but we often lose sight of our main role in our children’s lives -- to shape or mold them to their fullest potential. We are stewards of our children. Our function is to lead them to discover their true selves – their best selves and armed with it allow them to carve out their own niche in this world. Our expectations for our children should be aligned to this and not be dictated by our own selfish hopes motives and dreams. Our children are not extensions of ourselves. We shouldn’t expect them to make our old forgotten dreams come true or live them for us. It’s unfair to impose or heap this burden on their young shoulders. If any dreams should come true now that they’re much older – it should be theirs.
‘Now you listen, and listen well.’ I said to her firmly and pointedly. Although caught by surprise (I could see), she sensed that I was serious and so slowly put down her coffee and gave me her full attention. Well, I thought, there’s hope for this mother yet.
“Your son is not what he appears to be, believe me. But he just does not know how to put that across to you because you have already pre-judged him -- You believe he is no good because he acts differently apart from your other children. This makes him think that you don’t love him at all… that you’re playing favorites.
C’mon, give him a break. See him in a different light. Believe in his potential and help him bring it out to the fore. Help him with something he can believe in and make something out of. Lead him to things which will hone and develop his God-given talents. Help him get back on track again and confidently show to the world that he’s not the odd man out but the best man in.
No one else can do that for him – not his friends, not even his teachers. It’s you who can. So get yourself down to the task pronto… before you lose him, truly lose him one day.”
She was about to say something but then her phone rang. She answered it, and while the other end was talking I could guess, she took a brief look at me... stayed in that moment for a second….. Then loud enough for me to hear she spoke…
“Wait for me, Raul. We have something to talk about. Hey, how does pizza sound to you?”
Then she smiled, put down her phone, and turned to me “Garlic & cheese pizza - his favorite!” and brushing away a tear whispered…...
“Thank you” And headed straight for Pizza Hut across the hall.