I love to bring gifts to my children. When I travel I almost always purchase a little something that communicates my thoughts towards them while I was away from our home. Gifts, big or small, communicate care. I believe it is important that I communicate my love for my children in tangible ways with gifts that are bought. Those are the gifts that they fully understand at this point in their lives. Yet there are two additional gifts which can’t be bought, and if I fail to provide them, I will leave my children short of where they must be to navigate the world ahead. Clarity and courage are vital gifts our children will need in this season of history. I am convinced the leadership task of the hour, for parents or anyone else shaping our future, is to help a generation see with clarity and therefore live courageously.
In the outskirts of Lima, Peru, in a district of approximately 1 million inhabitants, I performed a simple exercise with a group of about 30 students between ages 7-12. A blindfold and few chairs arranged side by side is all it takes to expose what emerges in the absence of clarity. I called on a brave volunteer named Oliver who boldly stood to his feet not knowing what was coming next. I blindfolded him and stood him on top of one of the chairs with the instruction to move forward. What happened next reveals our task as educators, pastors, leaders, coaches, business professionals and, most importantly, as parents. Oliver was paralyzed with fear and could barely hide his profuse breathing. Then, guardedly, he stuck one foot out to try to find the next chair. Slowly and cautiously he took the first step. We all applauded and he was able to gradually feel his way to the next chair, and so on and so forth until he had crossed all four chairs. Then I gave Oliver the gift of clarity, I said, “now I want you to do it again but without a blindfold.” He stood on the chair which started the challenge and quickly and easily crossed with courageous bounds. Clarity provided him with courage. As the emerging generation makes its way into adulthood, we must remove the blindfolds of fear and provide the blessing of clarity.
Aren’t we all like Oliver when sight is dim? Don’t we become paralyzed in the dark? While Oliver had at least seen the path of chairs laid before him before the blindfold was applied, life is not laid out so straight before us. When we can’t see clearly, we stop moving so we don’t fall or fail. When sight or insight is dim, cowardice is inevitable, but hear the point: clarity yields courage.
Would it surprise you to know that many are predicting that in the coming decade more than half the world’s population will be under the age of 25? Currently most African countries median age is between 15-19 years of age. Wow! Can you imagine 3 to 4 billion humans with their frontal lobe still developing? Imagine a world where every election is decided by people between 18-30 years of age. In the world, right now, the median age is 30.1 according to world.bymap.org This is a staggering slice of data in light of the tremendous global leadership crisis. However, it doesn’t take data to know that the winds of change are blowing in our global village. What remains unknown is how will we equip the next generation of leaders. We can help provide clarity; and clarity will yield courage. It’s two for the price of one. When we provide clarity we are also paving the way for courage.
How can we as a parent and/or leader of the emerging generation begin this process of providing clarity for our children? I believe we must show up and speak up when their world feels like it’s just blown up. Let me provide a quick example from our own life and I’ll write more in a successive blog. Just this weekend a close friend of our family, tragically, lost his son that was 4 days older than my own son. He was hit by a car in front of his home. When my wife and I found out the awful news, we wrestled with how to inform our children. We were all very close to him. That afternoon we sat them down and with tears in our eyes and lips trembling we showed up in a tough moment. We didn’t hide the pain. We didn’t hide the reality. We showed up, but we also spoke up. It would be easy for fear and confusion to grip our sons and daughters in these moments, and with lots of reason. Pain is a reality of life. However, I knew I needed to speak up to define what life will look like in days to come. My words exactly: “Lucas and Sofia, look at me. This is tragic and it’s scary, but we will not allow our lives to be ruled by fear. We will still ride our bikes to school. We will continue to live like we do and we will continue to trust God.”
Just as clarity brings courage, courage also brings clarity. That’s our role. That’s our privilege.