So I was watching the great This Is Us last week and the equally great Sterling K. Brown, playing the conflicted and confused Randall, the adopted child in the Family Pearson, said something that really got me thinking. He said, “I think about all those people making choices about my life before I could make choices for myself”. And I realized how true that is for all of us.
At a certain point in our lives, we arrive at the place where we can begin making our own decisions, both profound and mundane. Who to date, who to marry (please don’t ask for my advice in that area. My track record is terrible.). What job to take, what place to move. Who to buy a Christmas present for, what movie to see. What car to buy, what outfit to wear each day. Whether we bring a child into this world, whether we can capably assume the responsibility of loving and devoted care for another person (whether that be our children or our parents). We are all faced with decisions every day. But to get to that point where we can make decisions (whether proactively or by default), many other people had to make choices for us long before we could.
That our parents’ paths crossed through chance or circumstance and that they made a decision to become a family and bring their own families together is where our first foundation of what we were to become was formed.
Our parents, of course, made the first big decision that allowed us to grow into the people we are today. They made the decision to love us, teach us, encourage us, correct us, shelter us, spare us, lead us by example. Whether we had siblings to look up to or to be an example for is also a decision we had no part in but the fact is that those of us lucky enough to have siblings have a connection, a shared blood like no others you’ll meet.
Our parents also determined what God we believe in and what church we worship at. They picked our schools and that is when, I believe, they truly put us on the path that we now walk on our own. By my parents selecting my Catholic grammar school, they introduced me to wonderful teachers and girls and boys – now women and men – who have remained a part of my life. The advice I received from my teachers and the friendships I formed with my fellow students and the goals they had for themselves helped me pick the high school I attended. And my parents, God bless them, found a way – by making their own choices to sacrifice and do without – to make that decision about my high school, the late and lamented Dominican Commercial High School (the best high school ever. Suck it, The Mary Louis Academy) become my reality.
And the girls I met in DC, truly some of the most amazing and heroic women I have been blessed to know, were all placed in my path because of the decisions and choices that their parents and grandparents had made for them. They have shaped me into the person, the mother, the daughter, the friend I am today and they helped me move onto the next phase of my life by encouraging me and advising me when I picked my college.
I met my best friend, Jimmy Courage, in college through my ex-husband (and the less said about him, the better). And a friend of his became a friend of mine and she introduced me to the man who became my first boss at the company I ultimately worked at for over 30 years. That he befriended me and became my champion, my go-to guy, my inspiration and helped me launch a career are only some of the reasons that my life is better. And his parents (especially his wonderful mother, Gloria, who is still so missed) made the decisions and choices that ended up with him sitting down next to me in the school cafeteria and changing my life.
And no matter what I think about him, that my ex-husband’s parents made the decisions they did meant I met him in college and ultimately ended up with the best thing that ever happened to me, my great kid. So as painful as it was with far more bad than good, my decision to marry him cannot be regretted.
I could go on and on with more and more examples of how people I have met and loved and lost and relied upon and were betrayed by all were there because of decisions and choices not only that they made but that their parents and friends made for them. We are all a sum of our parts. We are all a tapestry of people and places and things and experiences. We are all part of the bigger community, the brotherhood of man. And the decisions and choices we have made, we make today, we will make will be the building blocks of our children’s and our grandchildren’s lives, their legacies, their futures.
Don’t take that lightly. It is a privilege and a responsibility to choose wisely. Think and pray and ponder your decisions. Remember that you are preparing them to make good and responsible choices for their future. Teach your children well so that they can teach their children well. There is no greater gift you can give them.