Category Archives: Life
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy.
The very little boy
who told me he was two
as he climbed across the table
after dumping the entire contents of the bag of blocks
onto the floor
after emptying the cart full of plastic food
into the plastic sink and
trying unsuccessfully to shove the
plastic dish-drainer into the oven
in a way that would allow the door to actually close.
Oh, but he knew how to operate the microwave,
deftly punching its buttons to activate
its pretend revolving tray
then sifting through several plastic plates
searching for the round yellow ones that
were the right size for what he was preparing,
discarding all others in self-selected directions.
The chair I pulled up to this kitchen table
accommodated only part of my backside,
so I plunked myself onto the floor
and drew my glasses onto the bridge of my nose
that I might see the story of the day,
left open to the page where today’s lesson was featured.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy
who earlier I had snagged,
wrapping him with one arm as he sprinted
in attempted escape from his grandmother
who held fast to his little brother.
Now, there is a pause in the kitchen preparations
as the little boy takes Mr. Potato Head glasses
previously perched on his head and affixes them
upside down across the bridge of his nose,
their pliable arms reaching out to grab his temples
well short of the ears they would not have looped.
Spectacle to spectacle, we gaze at each other,
this little boy and I, he on home turf
and me very far from mine.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whisper to the little boy
who now draws very close
because secrets are meant to be shared, quietly,
ear to ear.
Co-conspirators we are now.
“Yes,” the little boy whispers
as he comes near.
We look together for a moment at the page
of faces that don’t look like his,
of people not dressed like him
of words that have no meaning to him.
“This is the secret.” I say, “Are you ready?”
He is ready.
“Jesus is alive,” I whisper.
“Jesus is alive,” he whispers,
because secrets are for telling
when you’re two.
But you must whisper.
Use it or lose it applies in, as far as I can tell, every situation. But what I’ve learned from those aging gracefully is there is no need to tell them that “no pain, no gain” is just bunk.
How can we tell if something is alive?
Biologists look for 5 traits, processes or functions as signs of life:
- metabolism (consume, construct, destruct, excrete)
- growth (learn, build, improve)
- reproduction (spawn offspring or ideas)
- responsiveness (sensitive, attentive, active)
- movement (action, progress, liveliness)
These are the characteristics of life — the life of anything.
That’s cool, because I can ask, how does my group or organization fare in this test?
- Does it have a healthy intake, constructing, evaluating and excreting the excess?
- Is it growing in size, stature, knowledge and/or numbers?
- Is it spawning new ideas, new energy, spin-offs, satellites?
- Is it sensitive to the needs of community and responding effectively to those needs?
- Is it doing things and taking action rather than standing by, waiting or watching?
If my organization is alive, I can dive in. If not, how can I enliven it? If I can’t, perhaps I should look elsewhere.
Even better, I can do the life-test with projects I am considering taking on or investing in.
- Will it engage me in a healthy way and allow me to sift out and toss the excess?
- Will it contribute to my growth? help me learn, improve or perform better?
- Is it creative and something I will want to share and pass along?
- Does it meet a real need in a way that is effective at reducing the need?
- Will my active participation offer satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment?
Of every opportunity, I can ask: Is this alive for me?
… If maybe? Give it a try and test again.
… If no? Then it’s someone else’s project.
It’s worth the test. Our biology shows us how. All things we choose to do should answer yes to this question: Is this life-giving for me?