The one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention – Diane Sawyer.
The Difference Of Presence
A school in Louisiana was experiencing consistent fights among students. As fights continued and tensions in the school reached fever pitch, a group of dads decided they had seen enough. They took matters into their own hands. Forty dads came to school every day in rotating shifts. Their presence had an immediate effect. The fighting stopped. Students returned to their classrooms. One student reported feeling safe in school because of the presence of the dads.
The team of dads, now calling themselves, Dads on Duty, paid attention to the tension rising in the school and took action. They chose not to point fingers or wait for law enforcement to intervene but planted their feet firmly in the hot zone, believing their presence could make a difference. During their interview with CBS Evening News, one of the dads, Michael LaFitte, said, “We’re dads, we decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us.” The Dads on Duty teach us the power of presence and the importance of paying attention to the tension.
Dealing With Tension
Likewise, in life, we face tension. These are seasons where life’s circumstances cause us to pause and pay attention, knowing that our decision or lack thereof has grave implications. For the dads, the constant fighting in their children’s school was the moment of tension. For you, it may be a book you read whose words leap off the pages and grab hold of your heart. For me, a vivid moment of tension was the day our first-born daughter Esther came into this world. Tension grew in my heart when the hospital released us to go home with her. I inquired in my heart, “Are they really trusting us to take care of a baby?” The reality of fatherhood hit. The thought that I was responsible for another person made me pause. That day, as we drove home, I realized that any unmitigated selfishness had to exit my life. When we pause and pay attention to the tension, pastor and author Andy Stanley says we have a better chance of making a better decision. Such a moment of tension changed Sam Polk’s life.
The $3.6 Million Pause
What would you do if you were offered $3.6 million as a bonus at your job? Many of us would scream, leap, or maybe think someone was playing a cruel joke on us. For Sam Polk, this offer was realistic. He worked at Paretas, a successful hedge fund company on Wall Street. Polk’s department focused on distressed market bonds. Sam was good at his job and raked in huge profits for the firm. Of course, this meant a huge bonus for Sam at the beginning of the year. When his boss mentioned the figure, Sam, in his memoir, For the Love of Money, confessed not to being excited and grateful but angry. Why? He wanted more. This desire was Poulk’s moment of tension. Ignoring it would be as detrimental as the Dads on Duty if they ignored the fights happening in their children’s school. That night Sam paid attention to the tension, paused, and thought about his life. He wondered, “How did I become like this?” Despite the money he made on Wall Street, the sense of emptiness became the impetus for a life-changing decision. Polk quit his job. His conscience was the voice calling him to a more meaningful life. Like the Dads on Duty, he chose a decision that makes a difference. He started Groceryships, an organization helping people in food deserts, places where healthy food habits are rare, by providing access to food education, fresh produce, and cooking classes.
What Is Your Tension?
From Wall Street to Main Street, we are not immune to moments of tension. We all have them at some point in life. How do we pay attention to the moments of tension we face? First, we must pause. Life moves at a breakneck speed. The whirlwind of busyness can silence the voice in our conscience screaming at us to pay attention. A pause is like a stop sign on the road. It gives us time to look before we proceed. Accidents are imminent when we ignore a stop sign. If we ignore the pause demanded in moments of tension, we set ourselves up for a crash in life. After we pause, we must lean into the tension without fear of what we discover about ourselves. Leaning will require us to take an honest stock or inventory of our lives against the current circumstance bringing the tension. Sam Polk realized he was living a false narrative regarding value. He believed his value in life came from how much money he made. His counselor corrected his narrative by explaining to him that a newborn baby has value without doing anything. He discovered his value is inherent. Finally, we must take action, no matter how difficult, to satisfy the moment of tension. The Dads on Duty decided to show up at school every day. Only then can we accurately deal with moments of tension that arise.
Final Thought: The Dads on Duty and Sam Polk paid attention and took action in moments of tension. Without action, the tension that requires attention leads to missed opportunities to be a difference-maker. Is there an area of tension in your life screaming for your immediate attention? Don’t brush it off. Pause, lean in and take appropriate action.
Keep on Keeping on!