We offered my daughter a chance to make a million dollars and she turned it down.
OK, “millions” might be stretching it, but adjusted for the economy of childhood, one could make a strong case.
Here’s the story: Virginia Rose drew a picture of an angel for her grandfather during his last days. He displayed it prominently in the hospital and at the hospice center, and it seemed to deeply move everyone who saw it. It became a source of great joy and comfort for him, and he requested that it be placed in his casket at the time of his burial.
A copy made its way to a wall in our kitchen, and Kim and I continued to marvel at its magnetic quality. It inspired us to offer Ginny a unique opportunity. We asked her if we could sell it on our website as a Mini*Print. Our only request was that she donate some of the funds to a charitable cause, but it was up to her to decide on the charity and how much to keep for herself.
But a few days later, Ginny approached Kim in tears. After some prompting, she revealed that she didn’t want to sell the artwork; that it was Papa’s angel and a gift meant just for him.
We tried to paint a full picture for her, that maybe Papa would be happy to see her inspire so many others and that perhaps the charity she picked could go to a cause he would have cared about. But in the end, she was resolute.
Although we could overrule her decision, we’ve decided to honor her wishes. Perhaps she will change her mind in the future, but for now, “Ro’s Angel” is not for sale.
Frankly, it’s not a choice I would’ve made. But I’m proud of Ginny. It takes a strong person to live by their convictions and chart their own path. Kim and I see it as our job to support her on that journey, even if it’s different than the one we’d choose for her.
In a small way, it reminds me of how my parents must have felt when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in art. I was a well-rounded A student; I could have taken any number of more stable and profitable paths. I am sure they were uncertain about my decision and worried about my future. But they supported me every step of the way. Even in the early lean days when things weren’t going especially well, they never once said, “Well you tried, maybe now it’s time to think about getting a real job.”
Unfortunately, not every kid is given this gift. Recently, I’ve witnessed a number of parents of high school students demean and discourage their children’s dreams, some right in front of them. These are very talented kids, with real aptitude in their area of interest. And yet the very people who could serve as the wind in the sails they’ll need to make their dreams come true are demanding they pursue a more “traditional” path.
And look, I get it. Sometimes the cockamamie plans they come up with are bat-guano crazy flights of fancy.
Job number one is to affirm their original vision, no matter how insane it may seem. Love them enough to give them the runway they need to let life school them in lessons of practicality. (Trust me, it won’t need your help for that.) The odds are quite good that where they end up will be very different from their original crazy vision, but please hear this: that initial naive, unrealistic, cray-cray vision is crucial. If you snuff that out at the start, it will never have the time to mature into the unique path they were created for.
When we care about someone, it’s normal to want them to make choices that ensure their safety and well-being. We want what’s best for them.
But it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would want a miserable future for their child that may include a full bank account but also leaves them trapped in a life they never wanted, tormented by resentment and regret. That’s exactly what you get when you extinguish their dream before it’s had a chance to mature.
We may share some DNA with our children, but they are not us. They are their own glorious gumbo of strengths and weaknesses, interests, and desires. Who knows for what purpose God created my child? The world may have been waiting centuries for this specific recipe; far be it for me to stand in the way.
It’s hard to to embrace something you don’t understand, and to approve a path you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. Unfamiliar with the art world, my parents were willing to invite an expert (my high school art teacher) over for dinner to confirm whether or not I was actually any good, and if there was a legitimate path that could lead to me not living with them when I was forty.
Without that leap of faith and vote of confidence (thanks for the assist, Mrs. Garrett!), I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I suspect my parents are at least a little surprised by how my life has turned out. In fact, it’s quite a departure from my own original vision. It’s even better.
I never would have gotten here had they not loved me enough to chart my own path.
Whether you are a parent or not, I bet you have some young people in your life who are figuring out what to do next.
Be a good angel on their shoulder, cheering them on to great heights.
They may turn down millions, but you can help them build a life that’s worth even more.