Remember that time when our little family was outside in the backyard and y'all were trying to climb backwards up the slide at the same time? Or that time y'all were running sprints on our new sofa? Or that time you were carrying around daddy's heavy drill? Or that time your ride-on toys turned into bumper cars? Or that time you were yanking at the window blinds to get on the other side of them and wave bye bye to OmieJean?
There was a phrase that echoed across all those experiences, and more where they came from, over and over, to the point that I got sick of hearing myself say it.
Now, your mama is a careful person. I very much like it when there is a plan, things are predictable and everyone and everything is in one piece. But here's the thing...
I don't want you to live a careful life.
Yes, there is a time and place for care, caution, reserve. I mean, I'd rather you not crash your car or go to jail or fall off a roof. I'd love for you to take care in what you purchase, to do your best to make sure the things you own are ethically created and traded. I'd prefer that you give mama a call once you are done driving back to your college dorm after a weekend at home to let me know you made it. But really...
I want you to live a brave life.
Don't be careful around poor people or homeless people. Don't just hand them a couple dollars hoping they'll bug off. Fling love at them instead, listen to their story, shake their dirty hand, acknowledge their history, treat them like a human, an equal, not someone you think is just out to take advantage of you.
Be brave with how much money you live on. Resist the urge to gradually elevate your lifestyle as you get older and feel like the world says you are supposed to, but instead set the bar low. Figure out an income level where you can provide for your needs and live plenty comfy, then stay there. That takes courage. To resist the next best, grass is greener, new fangled lifestyle item out there. Be brave in the face of "everybody's doing it" and "I guess it's time for an upgrade". You can do it, I promise.
Don't be careful with where you live. There's no need to skidaddle to a cute suburb where houses look the same and so do incomes and front yard alarm system signs. Live in your city, plant roots in your city, enrich your city, even if that city comes with urban struggle and mediocre school districts.
Be brave with who you love. Love the outcast, the needy, the forgotten, the persecuted, the sinner, the arrogant, the rude, the down and out, the full of themself, the eye-to-eye and the want-to-punch-them-in-the-face.
Don't be careful with how you serve. Don't box your service into a half a day here, a project there, merely checking off the pat-yourself-on-the-back box for another year. No, serve with abandon. Serve with your whole life in a way that changes your whole life. Live out an all consuming attitude of service to others and love of others, all others, such that people think you are crazy for taking it so far.
Be brave in the face of the world's standards. The world will tell you to be careful. It will tell you to carefully structure your life so you are comfortable and "set". Don't continually chase comfort for yourself. Under the world's standards, will you ever really reach it? Instead chase adventure, live out a calling, use your life for others rather than yourself, stockpile memories rather than wealth, love with abandon.
Kids, I want you to live a brave life. I pray you have the courage to do so and I will be rooting for you the whole way.