Gilead is a book from the point of view of a character named John Ames who is old and dying. The whole story is him writing to his very young son about life. This series of posts is about the notes my own father made in a copy of the novel before his passing. For more background, feel free to read the past posts in this series:
My dad put a bracket around this paragraph on page 98:
Well, I’ll confess I did feel a certain embarrassment about [my grandfather]. It may even have been shame. And it was not the first time I had felt it, either. But I was a child at the time, and it seems to me he might have made some allowance. These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you’re making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice.
I’d wager it’s safe to say most young people are embarrassed by a parent or grandparent at least once in their lives. I’m a junior high teacher, and I was once a young person, so I have the credentials to make this statement.
I cringe when I read the first few sentences from the above passage, knowing it’s a possibility my dad was thinking of me when he marked the paragraph. Someday my son and daughter will want me to leave them alone because of embarrassment. Like many things, it’s a cycle. We are embarrassed by those who love us most dearly and then are only able to fully appreciate them with the help of time and a large measure of experience.
The end of this paragraph is incredibly incisive. At times we try really hard to be better. For example, when we attempt to have every word we say full of integrity, then our speech is on our mind all day. When someone knows us well and what we’re capable of saying, we may feel cheated since we’re trying so hard to be better.
This is life. However futile it may be at times, we must always try to be better. We can’t wake up and think, I’m just going to be me today–no matter how horrid that might be. No, we remain patient at every red light, nod understandingly to the stressed coworker, and return home to a family that deserves and needs our unmitigated love.
When someone calls us out on being who we truly are, even when we are making a valiant effort to be better, it’s important to throw our hands in the air and laugh. Yes, you know me. I wish you knew me as someone better. Please give me a little credit for trying.
And even if you don’t, I’ll keep trying.