As one does, I found myself discussing ‘the best rappers ever’ with my 13-year-old on the way home the other day. While we didn’t land on a #1, for lack of clear criteria, we did generate a solid list of some of the best in the biz. I’ll keep the list to myself to avoid a viral Grow Christians controversy, but we did trip over some wisdom on our conversational journey: ‘He made an impact (on the industry) without making a scene.’ And now I can’t get that idea out of my head.
In January, after reading One Word for Kids, my third grade students and I spent some time identifying a key word to guide our 2024. We each landed on a word like focus, effort, shine, time, or confidence, what that would look like in our lives, and how we could work toward more of that in our actions.
Then, alongside studying narrative nonfiction and reading about William Kamkwamba, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Temple Grandin, we considered the ways in which we see these individuals and others in our lives – parents, friends, coaches – embody our word of the year. (By the way, y’all, our kiddos are watching us. I had students comment on how they admire that their parents can deal with ‘tricky clients’ with confidence and ‘use her time wisely by taking care of her needs before her wants.’)
The moments my students noticed about their friends, family, and the more famous individuals were those in which the people in question made an impact without making a scene. (There’s the question of defining ‘impact’ and ‘scene,’ but given its subjectivity, I’ll leave that delineation to the reader.)
As we consider the parables in scripture we read to our children, so many of them include stories of impact, not scenes. I think of Jesus’ more gentle moments with Mary and Martha and with children, and the times he quietly fed thousands of people and shared an important meal with friends. Yes, he did turn over tables; perhaps a scene is called for now and then. But most often, this God of Love-made-man chose calm and gentle over loud and ostentatious. And perhaps most importantly, Jesus was consistent.
Some friends and I went to see A Case for Love when it screened on January 23rd. The movie focuses on the idea of unselfish love and the difference it makes in the world, pulled into context by Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church. And again, the vignettes of individuals and families showing unselfish love to their neighbors showed real people making an impact, not a scene. There was consistency in the ways they chose to love others in their day to day living.
Conversely, scenes happen quickly. These can be flashy, explosive, loud, dichotomous, polarizing. Positive impact often happens slowly, born out of habits, choosing a ‘hard right over an easy wrong’ over and over and over again (although negative impact works similarly).
Can a scene make a positive impact? Sure. There are some protests born out of necessity that raise awareness of critical wrongs. But when I think of scenes, there’s a lot on social media that comes to mind. Scenes made for likes, subscribers, and if we really boil it down, scenes for attention.
Social media can be both a scene and make an impact. What we model there for our children matters. We are sharing air time, both online and in person, with a lot of scenes. What kind of impact are we making and how? What conversations are we having with our kiddos that align what our children and teens see and hear in their world with the world and worldview we hope they inherit?
One of two weekly emails I voluntarily receive is James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday Newsletter, a weekly digest based on his work in Atomic Habits. Recently, he included the following:
The wedding is an event, love is a practice.
The graduation is an event, education is a practice.
The race is an event, fitness is a practice.
The heart, mind, and body are endless pursuits.
I loved this emphasis on the beauty of consistent practice. I need that reminder as a parent. Keeping a room clean is a consistent practice. Doing laundry, having a helpful attitude, listening before speaking… all consistent practices, as are the gentle reminders to do them. We have to be consistent as parents working toward impact if we want our children to acquire deeply developed habits. This is the meaning of discipline after all.
So this question follows: To which disciplines are we giving our time and attention? God created our hearts, minds, and bodies to love, to love as deeply as God loves us. And the discipline of that kind of unselfish love makes the greatest impact of all.