There’s a case to be made that a principal job of parents is to help our children toward an understanding of what is and is not possible.
Typically, the practical application of this notion sounds like this: “Sure, it’s possible your iPod will still work after spending three months in a snow bank.”
Or, “Make it onto American Idol at 16? Um … sure … why not? Anything’s possible.”
I’m not one to crush a child’s hopes with something as unreliable as mere reality.
Eventually, as they grow, children learn that possibilities can be manufactured with imagination, effort, planning and perseverance. In all four of our children, we’ve seen the spectrum of what is possible blossom into life goals that secretly, we wonder how they’ll ever accomplish.
Sexist as this will sound (read: please don’t e-mail me to say I am sexist, because obviously I already know), when it comes to raising our only son, we think it’s especially important to create two avenues of possibility for his future consideration: Ministry and the military. We don’t know if either one is right for him — only Jimmy can decide. We’re only proposing that he evaluate whether he might be called to a life of service to God or to his country.
Both options require self-sacrifice, commitment and devotion to purposes beyond one’s own self-interest. They’re not career paths so much as callings. But a boy isn’t born knowing how to listen for God’s call to ministry or for his country’s call to arms.
Instead, boys are born knowing the sound of a crowd going wild at a sporting event, and this, they reckon, calls them to the Yankees or the Lakers or the Olympic team.
On Friday, to feed the fires of possibility, we’re taking Jimmy to visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Steeped in tradition and dedicated to “develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty,” there’s no worthier purpose for any young man, military or civilian.
But the point of visiting the Academy isn’t just to introduce the idea of military service as an option for the future. It’s also to connect our son with the mission of safeguarding the liberty and way of life established for us 234 years ago this Sunday.
Military service might not be his calling, but protecting our freedom ought to be the duty of every American.