Flip through our family photo albums and you’ll come across a picture of our older son at age seven, lying on his back, holding a ruler about ten inches above his face and studying it so intensely he doesn’t notice the camera. Science books at our house actually got read. On Saturday afternoons without fail, our TV blasted Popular Mechanics for Kids
On another page, you’ll see our younger son at age two with the beloved toy guitar his grandmother gave him for Christmas. In a birthday photo, he gleefully holds a kit of art supplies. His former classmates and teachers remember him as the one forever doodling in class. At the age of nine or ten, he created a pencil portrait of Vladimir Lenin convincing enough to hang on the set for the senior high play. Now, he makes his living as a talented tattoo artist and plays guitar in a band for fun.
In the majority of pictures of our daughter, she is surrounded by people. From the earliest age, her life revolved around others and her generosity with her possessions put me to shame. She became the one other girls, and even boys, came to for advice or just a listening ear. She was the one I’d find crying in her room, not over some personal calamity but over heartbreak a friend was facing. Next weekend, we’ll watch our lovely daughter receive her Master’s degree in Counselling. (I must remember not to wear something with buttons down the front, lest they burst.) Soon she will begin her job at Sonshine Centre in Calgary, specializing in helping women and children live free from domestic violence and abuse.
The point of this is not simply to brag about my kids, though we are certainly proud of them. Here’s the thing. Back in the day when their dad and I took those photos, we gave little thought to what our children would do with their adult lives. We were so busy pushing them to finish their homework, take baths, eat right, be polite, do their chores, and not kill each other to think about much else. Yet the clues were all there, though we see them only now, in hindsight. Had we been more intuitive, I’m sure we could have done more to encourage, support, and equip them for the roles they were created to play.
Young parents, I want to challenge you in this. In the insaneness of your busy lives, take note of what your children gravitate toward. With some kids, it will appear obvious early on. Others may need to try many different things before discovering their niche. Do what you can to foster their talent, and remember—your child doesn’t need to play for the NHL to be a hero. Watch not only for your child’s ability, but for his heart. What moves him or her to compassion? To anger? To action? What sorts of events will get him out of bed in the morning? And if you pray, ask God for wisdom. He knows your kid better than you do.
I love Frederick Buechner’s words, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It takes too many of us 50 years or more to find that place, if we find it at all. Let’s do all we can to help our kids discover their place, their calling, and their passion. The clues are there.