I am confident that there are worse things that could have consumed his time. He could have been begging to watch YouTube videos of kids opening up toys covered in Play-Doh (yes, we went through that stage and it was horrific!). Or he could have been persisting that we play yet another game of family Monopoly (a much less horrific experience, but one that seems to take years to complete). Thank heavens those options weren’t ones he had opted for. Instead, all he yearned for was to open his newly gifted laptop so he could write … and not write just anything. He wanted to write a book.
My husband unpacked the new technology he received for Christmas from its safety box and handed it over to my son with a new set of safety parameters – rules for when and how to use this device that was new for our family. My son listened, attentively, to each word he said with an excitement I wish I could bottle up for future days. It was like watching Christmas day all over again as I peered deep into his eyes. His large, chocolate browns were like presents in and of themselves, glittering with potential. They became telescopes into the churning thoughts that his brain was formulating moment by moment.
Ever since I published a book, he decided he was going to grow up and write one. I challenged him, though, to realize that everything in life doesn’t have to happen when you “grow up.” Why wait? Write one now, I continuously told him. And so he has. In fact, he written many.
His passion for writing began with a few pages of folded pieces of printer paper stapled together at the spine, filled with thoughts and colorful pictures on various topics that mattered to him. His entrepreneurial spirit encouraged him to entice grandparents and friends to purchase one of these hand-made beauties customized specific to their liking for only a dollar. Believe me, no grandparent could turn him down on that steal! But the fire within him continued, and this year, he was ready to write, for real.
He had never touched a computer before that moment; just iPads and tablets. He could peruse those with much ease, but to capture his thoughts this time required a different type work and dedication. First we had to find where a blank computer page lived (and how to save it!). Then, there was the whole new world of a keyboard. To show him how it was done, I closed my eyes and placed my fingers on the keys, typing him a message that he giggled at. I proved to him that once you get computer-savvy, your fingers do the work while your brain tells the story. He was enthralled.
Within five minutes he shouted out that he was done with chapter one … and five minutes later, chapter two. Before I knew it he had eight chapters captured, along with a smile that couldn’t be erased. But what had he written? I came to realize that, per usual, I wasn’t the one teaching him how to become an author … he was the one teaching me how to live.
One of my son’s favorite book series is “Who is.” As a child yearning to learn, this series allows him to dig deep into some amazing people that are notable throughout history. He’s read about Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth … about Mother Teresa and Walt Disney. He’s also read some “Where is” and “What is” books, gaining knowledge on interesting topics such as the solar system and important pieces of history like the Holocaust. This book series has found a way to welcome kids into people’s lives, into history and into being a part of change in the world.
My son decided it was his turn to capture a tidbit of life. Unexpectedly, I found that he had been writing a “Who is” book about himself. Through his simple yet meaningful sentences, my sweet 8-year-old shared stories about his basketball games and his family pets in the few chapters he had written. He was honest and raw, almost as if he had made an entry into his secret diary, yet this was intended for the world to read. “Who is Eli” was a book he hoped would change the lives of others, just like the ones he had read has changed him. He wasn’t hiding behind who he was; instead, he openly embraced it.
As I read each sentence of his book’s manuscript, my heart warmed and a grin became painted on my face. Not because he wrote a book or was learning how to type on a computer. No, it was because he had taken a stab at something so many people wait years to do or, quite frankly, never do at all. He had decided to capture the person he was today, and instead of being fearful of what others thought, he fully embraced every piece of who he is, who he was, and who he was going to be.
The older I get, the more I realize just how important it is to know who I am. I realize just how important it is to understand who I was. And I equally know just how important it is to know who I want to be. I may not capture it in a book manuscript like my son has, but each year as I am met with a blank canvas of possibilities, I try to take inventory of the growth I’ve experienced to help shape how the year ahead will be painted.
Who were you? Who are you? Who will you be? As you dive deeper and deeper into 2020, the year of clarity and vision, consider reflecting on the person you have been. Think beyond merely your career or the life hats that you wear. Those are important, but not nearly as important as the person underneath it all. Who WERE you and how did that shape you into the person you ARE today? Take inventory of what molded you and guided you to be where you stand at this very moment. And then, put that knowledge aside and embrace who you WILL be.
There are many choices in life that have been made for us. The family we were born into … the city in which we grew up … some of our experiences were out of our hands and yet shaped us into the person we stand today. But when you are writing your “Who is” book, I hope it starts from this point and goes forward. I hope that you allow the pages to be filled by the person that you will become – the one that is guided by your passions and your choices, made purposefully and uniquely by you.
Each step you take into this year, consider it to be a page written in your book for the world to read. What will you do if you knew you were leaving a legacy? What difference will you make if you knew, one day, a young boy would be so inspired by your life’s work that he will write a book about his?