Posted by: rongeri | January 13, 2011

A FATHER RESPONDS TO HIS DAUGHTER ABOUT COMMITMENT

COMMITMENT                       

In the first paragraph of her most recent blog, my brilliant, beautiful, and beloved daughter begins with these words: “On October 14th, I got engaged to my favorite partner in crime. He is a breathtaking reflection of God’s love for me and my personal reminder of the beauty in the world. I am blessed just to know him and it is the honor of a lifetime to plan our tomorrows together.” In the fourth paragraph she states: “During my engagement period I have been thinking…A LOT; not about wedding cakes and color schemes but about what it means to make a commitment and to live by it and through it. While marriage is often put in a league of its own when it comes to commitment conversations, in reality, every commitment we make or avoid defines the course of our lives in the same manner that marriage defines our direction. We make decisions everyday to flirt with, date, or marry the circumstances of our lives…our jobs, our families, our spirituality, our passions, our purposes and even ourselves.” And in the last paragraph she asks this question: “Are you married to your purpose or dating your destiny?”

Wow. If that doesn’t take the breath out of you, you have stronger lungs than I do. And as I reflected on Kim’s words, her being engaged to be married, and her question, some thoughts came to mind, which I am simply collecting under the heading “A Father Responds To His Daughter About Commitment.”

Commitments are not just things you make. They are things you live. Daily.  How your life reflects or falls short of your commitments is a story sometimes of triumph, sometimes of tragedy, sometimes of struggle and success, sometimes of  failure and frustration. But it’s a story that you write every day. And a very deep part of that story is this belief: If you keep pressing on, trusting in the Lord and standing on the promises, that we are transformed by our journey, and spiritually become “water-walkers” crossing over to the better side.

It is my hope and prayer that Kim and Sean’s journey together will be blessed. And that when the wind and the waves are blowing high, they will be able to say “Peace be still” with the same assurances as the One who spoke those words on the Sea of Galilee.

 I found that commitment was also the subject for today In Charles Stanley’s God’s Way, Day by Day. Dr. Stanley writes: “A commitment is a pledge, a statement of sure promise.  The value of any commitment is based upon two things: 1) The ability of the promise maker to fulfill the promise. 2) The integrity of the promise maker.  Though Dr. Stanley does not usually sounding a bit like Corbin on Contracts, in this instance he did and it reminded me of lessons from contracts and life.  And lest someone think Dr. Stanley has become a lawyer, the reference for his words today is Deuteronomy 7:9: “The Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations, with those who love Him.”  Dr. Stanley observes: “God certainly qualifies as One who will stand behind His commitments on both accounts. He has all the wisdom, power, and ability necessary to fulfill His promises to us. He also has proven integrity—God has always done what He has said He would do.” Stand on His promises.

A few years ago, my beloved daughter gave me a really special present. It was a picture of us at her college graduation with these words:

“I wanted to give you a gift that was special for your birthday but I realized there was no way I could top the gifts you have given me. The one gift I cherish most is my faith. I remember before I left for college you told me that you tried your best to give me all I needed to succeed on my own but you thought you failed to give me an unbreakable faith.  I took those words with me all throughout college as I began to go to church more often, as I sang in choir, and as I moved to Colorado knowing God had a vision for me there. I want you to know that in no way did you fail and I thank you for showing me God’s role in my life.”

This is a very special blessing for me.  And it caused me to think back to when I first met Geri, and how she was the answer to a prayer.

Commitment and the Perspective of Time

In February of my first year of law school, I recall standing on Mass Ave near Trowbridge Street in Cambridge and praying that  while I was in school I would meet the person who would be my lifelong companion. Someone who was intellectually gifted, physically gorgeous, emotionally compatible with me. And for those of you who know me, you are probably thinking brother you should have just asked for two out of three, because once you added that last one you were really pushing the outer limits.  Well, at the end of my first year I was drafted, went into the National Guard, went on active duty, got out too late to begin second year of law school in February and worked in Roxbury Legal Service until September. But the day I got out of the Army, I did something I had never done before. I went over to the Law School, walked through Harkness Commons, and just as I was going out the door, looked to my left, and there she was. This beautiful woman, whose laughter was like twinkling stars with sound, sitting there with Noah Griffin. Just my luck, I thought, a gorgeous woman comes to the law school while I am away and Noah’s got her. I started to go out the door, heard her laugh again, and came back in. I looked, and said, Noah’s a friend, but not that good a friend. I went over and said hi to Noah and he introduced me to Geri. (When you get out of the Army, you have incredibly short hair, and by all accounts are remarkable underwhelming for a variety of reasons, one of which is your old clothes don’t fit because you lost weight. Geri would later confirm this but being a sensitive person she hid her initial disappointment in meeting a person about which she had heard so much, mainly from men at the law school who had been the beneficiaries of several small parties held in my off campus apartment. These small parties had been transformed over time and telling and can only be compared to catching a very small fish that becomes known as The Leviathan! In any event, Noah and Geri had both graduated from Fisk and were only friends. Geri was telling Noah about the surprise birthday party that had been thrown for her a few weeks earlier.  Noah is still a friend,  was the first person we called when Geri and I got engaged, and was best man in our wedding.) A few days later I later asked Geri out on a date. (I called her at 8 am on a Saturday morning because during my first year we had class at 9 am on Saturday. Though Geri accepted my invitation to go out to hear Hugh Masakela at Lennies on the Turnpike, she told me never to call her again that early on a Saturday morning as the school had abolished Saturday morning classes!) She was reluctant to go out with me because of the stories she heard about parties I threw during my first year of law school. (I did not throw these by myself. My roommate Bob Holmes was my accomplice!) Those stories were total, bald face lies told by people trying to discredit me. Ok, not total, but highly exaggerated.  But as we look back to those Days, Geri and I both realize that when we met was a special time, and under circumstances that permitted us first to just be friends. And finding someone with whom you can be a best friend, is truly a treasure. I believe Kim and Sean have that same commitment. 

During our time in Cambridge, I was the first pre-law advisor at Currier House, Radcliffe,  and Geri had a corporate appointment at Jordan W, also on the Radcliffe campus. We had some great times, and met life long friends like Ilona Henderson, Ken Olden, and Peter and Marlene MacLeish. After Law school, Geri and I went to B-school and were house parents at Simmons College. Then we moved to NYC and Geri started working at the law firm of White & Case and I started working in  ITT’s World Headquarters Legal Department.  And that led to meeting more life long friends like Lorna MIlliffe and Brian and Ann Barker in the UK, and later when I was with the Motion Picture Association of America, meeting Brian Wilkerson in New Zealand. Thinking back to our graduate school days, I think Geri and I are one of the few couples still together. (Hear! Hear! To  Peter and Marlene and to Brian and Anne.) Some would say that just shows Geri is either a Saint or a glutton for punishment. People who are a bit wiser, would recognize that commitment entails dealing with change.  Geri’s mom and dad and my mom and dad are now among that great crowd of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 11, and we were blessed that they were all present when Geri and I got married. (A year later, my dad passed). Geri and I wrote our own wedding ceremony, and one of the things I look forward to doing is sharing a  copy with Sean and Kim. I also have a sound tape of our wedding ceremony.

Commitment in Song and In Poetry

Donnie McClurkin, Cee Cee Wynans , Yolanda Adams, Eric Campbell, and Tina Campbell, expressed commitment this way in the lyrics of the hit song, When You Love, and I think it applies to Kim and Sean:  “Life is lovely, oh so lovely, life is lovely when you love. It’s exciting and inviting, life is lovely when you love. Love is patient, love is kind, and love is the key to life’s peace of mind. Oh it’s exciting when you love. Be inspired, so inspired, be inspired when you love.  Be inspired, heart on fire, be inspired when you love. Write them a poem or sing them a song, draw them a painting, walk arm in arm. Be inspired when you love. Be romantic, so romantic, be romantic when you love. Be romantic, so romantic, be romantic when you love. Draw in the sand or write in the sky, tell them you’ll love them ‘til the day that you’ll die. So be romantic when you love. Be committed, so committed, be committed when you love. Be committed and stick with it, be committed when you love. Go get a preacher, go get a singer, go put a diamond ring on her finger, be  committed when you love. Let them find out. Let them find out, Let them find out when you love. Take the time out, and let them find out when you love. If you love them, why don’t you tell them. Give them  flowers while they can smell them. And let them find out, let them find out, take the time out, take the time out, and let them find out,  when you love.”

Let’s see. Romantic (Yes, date night every week.) Flowers (Yes, every week. Sometimes fresh. Sometimes artificial ). Walk  arm in arm. (Yes). Diamond (and sapphire) ring on her finger.   Yes  Sean gave the ring to Kim, the day after he called me to ask for her hand in marriage.  And as promised I am sharing the photo of Geir’s hand with the diamond ring I gave her when we got engaged.                                            

Commitment, Church, and Music

One of the nice things that warm my heart about Kim and Sean is that they met in church and are both deeply committed to the Lord.  This is a special blessing to me as it reflects roots for Geri and for me and offers intergenerational promise. Geri’s dad and uncles were very involved in the church she attended in Compton. And when Sean and Kim visited us last year, we went to a moving prayer service, and he asked if he could pray for me. (Now if you don’t think that took something, think again.).   My father was a trustee in the church where I grew up and my grandfather was a deacon in that church.  The first paying job I ever had was playing piano in Sunday school. I still play in flugelhorn in an intergenerational “orchestra”, and last first Sunday played songs ranging from the melodically soothing “Amazing Grace” to the upbeat, toe tapping, “Soon, Very Soon I Am Going To See The King”.  (But not too soon!). I am committed to making music with my flugelhorn and with my life. I feel that Kim and Sean are committed to the special music of their love for one another and that is a blessing. 

When Sean and Kim were back here again for Amina’s wedding, there was a comfort about them. And when we were out in Seattle for Jerry and Tasha’s wedding, Sean asked Gerri to dance showing a courageous commitment to, borrowing from Star Trek, to boldly go where only I had gone before namely, onto the dance floor when my wife goes to work.

But back to commitment and reflections about it.  It takes a lot of self knowledge to make a commitment to yourself and keep it. It takes even more to make a commitment to someone else, and work through what that commitment entails. When you commit yourself to the Lord, and also to being someone else’s brother or sister in Christ, you are embracing  a lot. And we don’t always have the emotional, mental, or physical equivalent of a GPS to guide us.  But I believe that God answers prayers and responds to commitment. It is my prayer that His perfect  will is done in all things, at all times, in all circumstances.

LESSONS ABOUT COMMITMENT FROM KIM AND MIKE

One of the wonderful birthday presents given to me by Kim and Mike was a book of family photos with narrative quotes. Here are three things they said about me or advice I was given:

  1. A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.
  2. He taught us not only to believe we could move the mountains but to climb them.
  3. The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

It is impossible for me to think about commitment, without thinking about these five reference points:

  1. The commitment it took for Kim to successfully teach blind and deaf students  in Colorado Springs, how to play golf.

 

  1. The words spoken by Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi: ““Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”
  2.  The poem “IF” for Women.

If you can trust yourself though others doubt you
And conquer fears that limit what you dare
So you can freely give to those about you
The skills and talents that are yours to share;

If you can live, not for your pleasure only,
But gladly lend your gentleness and grace
To warm the hearts of those whose lives are lonely
And help to make their world a better place;

If you can balance dreams with practicality
And deal in facts, but never lose ideals,
If you can face the harshness of reality
And find the truths that prejudice conceals;

If you can be courageous when defeated
And humble in the face of victory,
Or give your best until a task’s completed,
However difficult that task may be;

If you can temper facts with understanding
And seek to gently guide, not to control,
And neither be too lax nor too demanding,
But keep in mind the worth of every soul…

If you can strive, not caring who gets credit,
And work at building bridges, and not walls,
Or hearing idle slander, just forget it
And never fail to help someone who falls;

If you can give your help without begrudging
The patience, time and effort you impart,
Or look at others’ weakness without judging
And see, not with your eyes, but with your heart;

If you can take resources that surround you
And use them in the way you feel you should,
You’ll be a woman…and all those around you
Will be the richer for your womanhood!

  1. The words of the Omega Hymn, particularly when we sing it for a brother who has entered Omega Chapter.

 Omega Dear, we are thy own
Thou Art our Life, our Love, our Home,
We’ll Sing Thy praises far and nigh
We love Omega Psi Phi.

To all thy precepts make us true;
Live Nobly as all real men do;
Let manhood be our eternal shrine;
With faith in God and Heart and Mind.

Through days of joy or years of pain;
To Serve thee e’er will be our aim;
And when we say our last goodbye;
We’ll love Omega Psi Phi.

  1. Invictus (the poem and the movie)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Eleven Commitments I Believe Are Important To Make For A Lasting Love: Commit to
 

 

¨  Celebrating the blessing of having found one another, regardless of the season or the contrary reasons that may sometimes surface under stress.

¨  Being engaged in the community where you live.

¨   Continual intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth.

¨  Creating positive memories, captured in photos.

¨   Experiencing the art, music, and culture of where you live.

¨  Getting away from time to time on mini-vacations

¨    Healthy eating, exercise, getting enough rest, regular medical and dental checkups.

¨   Making time to develop and share your own special personal gifts.

¨  Making time to relax and enjoying your own company as well as each other’s company.

¨   Make time to do some things as a family.

¨    Stay connected with old friends and make new ones

¨    Traveling to somewhere you always wanted to see or visit.

And based on some photos, you  are already doing these things. Don’t  stop.

Commitment  Captured in Quotes

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”- Mignon McLaughlin

“Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the ‘right stuff’ to turn our dreams into reality.” James Womack.

“If you don’t make a total commitment to whatever you’re doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It’s tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on.” – Lou Holtz

“The wonderful thing about saints is that they were human. They lost their tempers, got hungry, scolded God, were egotistical or impatient in their turns, made mistakes and regretted them. Still they went on doggedly blundering toward heaven.” – Phyllis McGinley

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”- Erma Bombeck


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