As we close out 2019 and look to 2020, we often take stock of our year; the good, the bad, and in-between. We vow to make some changes. Eat less. Hug more. Actually vacuum the coils underneath the refrigerator. Obviously, some will happen and some won't.
Something I've heard people say, and have said myself, is to volunteer somewhere. Anywhere. If this is you, let me recommend contacting Good Dads and checking to see if your neighborhood elementary school has an All Pro Dad chapter. Consider helping with the All Pro Dad chapter there . . . and if there isn't one, maybe you can start one! Maybe you have a child at the school, a grandkid, a nephew, or a neighbor. If you attend a church, maybe there’s already a relationship established with a nearby school. That's how I got started.
I didn't have any kids of my own when my church started a chapter at a school, but I jumped right in. Initially, I was just a helper, but slowly became a co-captain. (Teamwork makes the dream work.)
Now, our team is on Year 4 of meeting with kids and parents for breakfast at McGregor Elementary. We recognize many dads and kids. We know the staff at the school. We were politely asked not to give the kids candy before they go to class. You live and you learn, right?
You're probably thinking, that's great, but why should I get involved? There are so many answers to that question, but the simplest is if not you, then who?
This world moves fast. Our culture is so divisive and self-centered, that we all need to chip in. We can make a difference. Our community is like one big quilt. We can either continue to sew it together or let the edges fray. And it's too big of a job for just the government or the schools or the churches or the non-profits. We all have a role to play.
The wonderful thing about being an All Pro Dad Captain is that the barrier to entry is really low. All the material you need to get started is readily available. There is a curriculum with discussion ideas, games to play, and even videos to show if you want to use them. Moreover, our school district, Springfield Public Schools, has been very willing to help as much as possible.
What are the desired skills for a Captain, you ask?
So now you know. Being a Captain isn't daunting. The most important thing to remember is that you are a facilitator of a time for kids and their parents to just be together. And in this fast paced world, providing something so small can have a big difference.
Interested in learning more about All Pro Dad's impact in Springfield, MO? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Good Dads Podcast to hear three local Captains explain how they got involved and why both kids and dads look forward to the time together each month.
Click here to learn more about All Pro Dad resources and chapters around the country.
Brian Mattson and his wife, Jessica, welcomed a son to their family just over a year ago, to join their 10-year-old Golden Retriever named Albus. Brian is the Director of Worship & Operations at The Downtown Church and in his free time plays and sings in a cover band (Deja Crew), enjoys walks with the family, planning the next great road trip, and quoting Seinfeld episodes.
Ordinary – that’s the title of a book by Michael Horton about “sustainable faith in a radical, restless world.” Horton speaks primarily of spiritual matters, but I think what he says applies to so much of our everyday lives—work, leisure, relationships. After all, who wants to work at an ordinary job, go on an ordinary vacation, or have an ordinary relationship?
Today words like “ultimate,” “extreme” and “awesome” are in vogue. In the workplace or business world we often hear that companies or organizations are “emergent,” “impactful” and “innovative.” Let’s face it, if you’re not “cutting edge,” you are nowhere on the power grid. It got me thinking about how much many of us, me included, may be influenced by this not-so-subtle message of our culture. According to Horton, “ordinary” is “one of the loneliest words in our vocabulary today,” and he notes that no one wants a bumper sticker announcing to the neighborhood, “My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary.”
Just to be clear, Horton is not talking about settling for mediocrity or just getting by. Rather, he is suggesting the never ending calls to greatness, e.g., “Be all that you be” and “Never settle” are exhausting on multiple levels. In the words of Tish Harrison Warren, many of us have never learned “how to be an average person living an average life in a beautiful way.” We are continually pushed and prodded to believe there is something more we could attain or be, if only we pursued our dreams with more vigor.
Here’s the thing that concerns me . . . and Horton. We can make heroic efforts to do some great thing in our community or around the globe, but fail to be a decent human being to our neighbor. We may be innovative and impactful at work, but fail to demonstrate that same kind of energy on a day-to-day basis with our families. We make sure our children have awesome, memorable vacations, but fail to help them consistently demonstrate good manners or be content with what they have.
Much has been said about “the greatest generation,” also known as the “silent generation.” What occurs to me now is that their greatness seems highly correlated with their willingness to be “ordinary,” i.e., to show up, day after day, doing their work with persistence and dedication. Perfect? No, but their faithfulness to the everydayness of life over a lifetime created some extraordinary legacies marked by courage and sacrifice.
As we begin a new season, I’m wondering if it might be good to consider more ways to be ordinary, draw less attention to ourselves, resolve to pay attention to people who don’t really benefit us in any way. Perhaps we could get to know our neighbors. Maybe we could resolve to be on time—early even—just so we could make space in our schedule to welcome others. Possibly we could worry less about what will make us happy and put more energy into how to make the world a better place for those within our circle of influence every day – small children, cashiers, service workers, those we supervise or report to. Small kindnesses, caring words and everyday courtesies don’t seem like much in the face of world hunger. That’s why it takes courage to pursue them on a daily basis. As the saying goes, “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.”
Becoming more content with being ordinary may be just what is required for a happy, healthy life, rich in community.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Executive Director of GOOD DADS. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.