Jodie, on the occasion of your surgery

I cannot begin to tell you how emotional it was when, as an infant, you were diagnosed with diabetes, and then the worst  brittle diabetes.  Your mom wept for days.  She wept sticking you repeatedly to find your blood sugar level.

I was in the hospital last week.  They pricked my fingers three times a day.  I used all my fingers on one hand.  Did you celebrate your 10,000th prick?

Then they told your parents your life expectancy was 12 years … possibly.  So we heard story after story in the night, in the morning, in the bathroom, in the bedroom when everyone in the family — including pets — took turns awaking for no particular reason (God must laugh when we say silly things); to walk in, check you, and find you had cratered.

Your family created a “new normal”.  Jodie cratered.  Jodie’s out cold — and we must calmly, intentionally work our way out of this.

This latest series of debilitating headaches, leading you through a new, bewildering forest of conflicting diagnoses, crashing and ascending hopes — has drained all of you.  Draining Jill and me ten hours away is a lot less than your mom and dad.  That draining, doesn’t even include the bills. . . .

So, next week you return to Houston, to Ben Taub where your grandfather loved his traning as a physician to remove your outsized pinneal gland.  Being twice as old as doctors said was even possible, helps me pray that you lick this thing and flourish.

Cheering and Creativity

Do we cheer for true creativity?  Should we reserve our applause only for amazing creativty?

Like my sons before him, I cheer for my grandson Duke when he walks, feeds himself, and even when he poops — on a pot, soon his mother hopes.  Is that truly, wildly, earth-shatteringly creative?  No. 

Not yet. 

But still I cheer him, because he doesn’t cheer for himself, yet.  He will, hopefully, rise to internalize his cheering, take pride in his work, and come to know that what he has done is good enough when that is all it needs to be.

When my college and grad students give their two minute pitches, the rest of the class claps and cheers.  Do they clap because their ideas push the envelope of technology?  Are their business plans advancing the frontiers of applied science? 

Not yet. 

No they clap because they were all scared spitless as well, and are thrilled to survive the first pitch.  They have done something out of their comfort zone and survived.  Some even did very well. 

And so a subset of my students will continue to work with ideas.  They will appropriate technologies, combine ideas others had missed, extrapolate the principles of one application to another domain and make small advances.  Some, doing it for long enough will finally reach the frontiers of thought in some domains — and birth world-changing ideas.

Meanwhile, I will cheer for Duke at his first recital, first soccer game, and when he graduates from grade six, because that is what grandfathers do.  That is what a child needs to internalize accomplishment and hunger for more.  Then I will hand him over to other teachers, and they bloody well better encourage him, push him out of his comfort zones, and give him tastes of achievement and creation, because that is what good teachers do.

For all those years, Duke will first achieve what millions, and then thousands, and then hundreds, and then maybe only a handful of others have achieved.  Starting way far from any frontier, he will achieve and build, and move closer and closer to the frontier — be it the frontier in music, business, ministry or science — or family. 

My goal is to cheer for him, until he can quietly face the fears and uncertainties in building something new on whichever frontier he so chooses to build and flourish. 

Somehow, and I am biased, that makes me think you should cheer for him and all those like him as well, until they are at the pinnacle on the frontier and everyone else will join in to cheer.  Until then, way far back here from the frontier of true achievement, it is my job.