Are You Sharing This?

We’ve talked before about Jimmy Carter’s father. James Sr. was a flawed man, to be sure. He was strict and stern, often unaware of the way he loomed over his quiet, bookish son. The elder Carter was a figure of old time values–hard work, stoicism, decency–as well as old time vices–a smoker, a racist. He was also capable of moments of great kindness and he put his son on a straight and narrow path that the boy is still walking nearly 100 years later.

There is a power that Jimmy would write that captures what children really ache for, something that his father struggled to do. Even the title of the poem Carter wrote about it itself is a powerful epigram that should help us be better: “I Wanted to Share My Father’s World.” That’s what they want, why they look up to you, ask questions, emulate you…even preemptively push you away.  “This is a pain I mostly hide,” Carter writes.

This is a pain I mostly hide,

but ties of blood, or seed, endure,

and even now I feel inside,

the hunger for his outstretched hand,

a man’s embrace to take me in,

the need for just a word of praise.

I despised the discipline

he used to shape what I should be,

not owning up that he might feel

his own pain when he punished me.

I didn’t show my need to him

since his response to an appeal

would not have meant as much to me,

or been as real.

For those rare times when we did cross

the bridge between us, the pure joy

survives. I never put aside

the past resentments of the boy

until, with my own sons, I shared

his final hours, and came to see

what he’d become, or always was —

the father who will never cease to be

alive in me.

They want to connect with you. They want to be understood by you. They want you to root for them, to support them, to be proud of them–not because of their accomplishments, but because of who they are. They love you…they’re afraid of you. They don’t know what to do with these feelings.

We have to bridge that gap. We have to share our world with them…

and we will not fail to give it to them. You were saved by it…and now you will save them.

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