Sunday, January 6, 2013

Seeds From An Angel

"Your children need your presence more than your presents." (Jesse Jackson)

Last week I came across something while drifting around the Internet that sparked a whole series of reactions in me.  I smiled.  It warmed me.  I felt pride and exclaimed "Whaddaya know!"  It gave me hope and it's brightened me for several days since.

So what was this "Good News"?

A mother in Massachusetts, by the name of Janell Burley Hofman, had made the headlines because she had given her 13 year old son, Gregory, an iPhone for Christmas (not so newsworthy in itself).  But what was remarkable and inspiring was the contract she gave her son as well along with the techno-goodie.  Receiving the phone depended on Gregory also accepting all terms of the contract.

Ms. Hofman describes herself as a mother with "...a gentle and fierce heart..." to her five children.  She also is a community organizer and teaches parenting classes in Cape Cod.  And for all of that, I say Cape Cod and her family are very, very, very lucky.

Here is a link to her blog where you can read the entire contract she wrote.  Click on the link.  Go to "Musings" and then "Gregory's iPhone Contract".

Janell Burley Hofman's Blog

But I have to share parts of what she wrote because they moved me, and there were such important lessons - big lessons - being taught in each.  Lessons that we wish ALL children would learn.  Lessons that I want to remember as well.  And what was so inspiring is that SHE knew this and bravely acted upon it.

Here's some of what she wrote and my reflections on it.

1.  "It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you."
2.  "I will always know the password"

THE BIGGER LESSON?  I love how in these first two rules she reminds her son that there is nothing that he is "entitled to".  That he is humbly answerable to something higher ("Mom").  That a gift of any value in life also ALWAYS comes with responsibilities.  Such a lesson teaches one Humility and Gratitude.  These are the first required tickets for entrance into a world larger than just "Me, Myself, and I".

5.  "It does not go to school with you.  Have a conversation with the people you text in person.  It's a life skill."
11.  "Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public....You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that."
14.  "Leave your phone home sometimes...Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO - fear of missing out."

THE BIGGER LESSON?  "Who You Are" is not determined by what others are saying, or not saying about you or about others, or what you're saying about them. (Did you know the average American teen today sends and receives 60 texts a day!)  Don't be an anxious slave to anything (phone, person, thought) that tells you you must "answer to it".

6.  "If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.  Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money.  It will happen, you should be prepared."

THE BIGGER LESSON?  If you have to work to earn something, it will have value to you.  Unexpected things happen in life, yet no one else is responsible for "correcting" things, then you.  Do not whine.  Do not make excuses.  Don't look to Mom, God, or the federal government to make your life all better.  If it's true for the Boy Scouts and the Coast Guard, it's true for you:  Be Prepared.

7.  "Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being."
8.  "Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person."

THE BIGGER LESSON?  Be kind to other.  Have compassion for others.  There are times in life when it takes greater courage and strength on our parts to reflect these virtues, than it does to be cruel and mean.

12.  "Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else's private parts.  Don't laugh.  Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence.  It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life.  It is always a bad idea."

THE BIGGER LESSON?  So true!  If something is telling you that doing this is "funny", "clever", "cool", or "private", it's a lie.  It's selfish; self-centered; and self-glorifying.  And in the end will destroy you.  Just ask the dozens of politicians who've learned this shameful truth the hard way.

I especially loved the POSITIVE lessons she ended the contract with.

17.  "Keep your eyes up.  See the world around you....Listen to the birds.  Take a walk....Wonder without googling."

THE BIGGER LESSON:  Be interested in living in a bigger world than yourself.  There is great beauty and wonder that we're given the freedom to be a part of.  Choose that which is God-given over that which is man-made.  You won't regret it.

18.  "You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again....We are in this together."

THE BIGGER LESSON:  Let Life teach and correct us.  No matter what happens, nothing can ever be "taken away" from us if we're always willing to start over.  There is no greater power in the Universe than that.  Use it.  And remember that it is Love that offered both the lesson, and the gift.

The biggest gift that Ms. Hofman gave her son was not the phone.  It was these bigger lessons that she so clearly and thoughtfully passed on in her contract.  I'm sure that at times Gregory will see them as irritations, shackles on his teenage freedoms.  But I trust that in time he will also remember them for what they really are.

Pearls of Love.  Seeds that, if tended, will allow him into grow into a strong, healthy, and wise man.  Gifts given by an angel.

"All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." (Abraham Lincoln)

Moms are forever gardeners, planting seeds of love in their children.  I see my wife still doing this today with her own adult son, now 27.

Thanks, Janell, from all of us who read what you wrote.  Thanks to my own Mom for planting those same kinds of seeds in me.