Building Reputations One Step at a Time

There is a pond out our back door. It is a neighborhood fixture, this pond surrounded by wetlands, so large it almost feels legit to claim we live on the water in our flat, midwest prairie town. Around the pond is a walking path a mile long, the perfect length for us to walk off dinner, soak in some evening sun, notice how the landscape seems so rich in its hues, the water that much bluer, the grass that much greener as the day winds down. The perfect chance to hold hands, to talk.


By the time you graduate from high school, what do you want to be known for? What kind of reputation will you earn?


These questions are the ones that I long to hear the answers to, the questions I wish I had more than a mile tonight to wrestle through. For all the necessary questions I pepper them with throughout the day—Have you brushed your teeth? Where are your shoes? Did you remember to take out the garbage? Who’s cereal bowl is this? Do you need a hug? How did you manage to get toothpaste in your hair?—it’s the soul searching questions that make me long for a longer walking path, one that could take us hours past bedtime into discovery and intimacy a school week schedule rarely allows. 


Who do you most want to become? 


And some of the answer comes in a negative form—I don’t want to be unkind, I don’t want to be aloof. I don’t want to get involved if someone is being made fun of—


I stop the conversation there. 


I think of Jesus, who taught, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)


I think of James, who claimed that “anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)


How do we teach our children to stand up for the kids who can’t stick up for themselves? 


How do we teach our children to stand when they are the kids who can’t stick up for themselves?


How do we slow the world down enough to allow for life lessons around the mile long length of a pond-side walking path, a few quiet moments at dusk as the sun says goodnight and we have another night ahead that leads to another day in which we set one foot in front of the other, doing the very best we know how?


These moments of walking are, I think, some of the best in my days. I think this walking path is where life just may get sorted out, or at least hotly debated. This may be the place my kids, by the time they graduate from high school, look back on and realize they built their reputations with the knowledge and wisdom gained from a childhood of moments—moments linked together by walks around the pond. They will have become known for something; something we may have pondered as we walked off dinner and watched the water turn so blue. 


Who do you most want to become? What can you do today to help make sure that happens?