This past week I had a substitute teacher in my park district tennis class. He engaged my crew of fellow cardio-tennis mamas in some new gut-gasping drills… one he called Money Ball. We were given two shots to make and the second was the "moneyball'. Nailing that shot gave us victory and a move to the “winners” side of the court. It was a tough routine and many of us were struggling. Afterwards, when I caught my breath, I thought… this game so relates to my life!
In the drill, I had a consistent problem with my height and timing of my historically unperfected net approach shot … in my life, well, I still face issues tied to my family heritage and life choices.
Doesn’t it seem that we all have issues in life similar to those we face in our sports? The problems all appear different, yet we each have inherited challenges tied to physical build or brain wiring and how they manifest within our game competency.
I also thought of another example of this heritage scenario from childhood. My story is a pretty typical 60’s - 70’s tale of growing up in a hard-working middle class family, also becoming a first generation college graduate. I share that narrative with many of my over-50 friends. However, in my family, our mom passionately indulged my sister and I with amazing clothes for every special school event. They weren’t high-priced; yet, they were always new and very fashionable. Sometimes she even made them on her trusty ‘50’s sewing machine, and other times we simply jumped in the car for a 20-mile trip to the only mall in our area for a purchase.
Mom also allowed us, along with all of our friends, any type of sweet or tasty snack we wanted, pretty much whenever we wanted. So, every kid in our neighborhood chose to hang at our house… of course! (Mom was an amazing baker and still is at 85!). Yet, as a result of both these indulgence scenarios, I really struggled as a young adult with setting boundaries on both my clothes obsession and my “sweets” consumption. As well, these formative patterns still spill
over into other areas of my life.
Why in the world did my mom allow these indulgences? We all know that setting boundaries and limiting sugar is key to good health. Well, I’ll tell you … we simply didn’t know many nutritional facts in rural America during the 60’s. And, my mom, who grew up relatively poor with many siblings, was rarely allowed to have sweets or nice clothes. She just wanted to give us what she could not have!
Every generation wants to provide for their children and help them move up the success ladder. Usually, that also includes something they were unable to have or achieve for themselves. Yet, in the second-half-of-life, I can now see that this achievement and resource scenario looks very different for every family. “Doing without”, comes in many forms, even though our most common understanding is centered around being financially poor. My over-50 perspective, gained through both aging experiences and intentional lifestyle choices, has allowed me to see many other forms of poverty.
I can now see those who struggle with the “poverty of access”, or systemic injustice. That phrase refers to people groups who do not have the ability to obtain resources that others do, usually because of financial, political or social systems. Modern ways have become both complicated and layered, so many days these systems only work for those with elevated knowledge or relationships to unlock them... They leave many people on the outside, only looking in!
Then, after many generations in America, a “poverty of affluence”, or wealth with a continual desire for “more” has exploded. Many families have now come from one or several generations of upward mobility. Their heritage scenario has enabled them to move way up the success ladder. So, their situation becomes their "normal" way of life; and, this norm can allow them to assume that every other person who simply works hard can achieve their same results. This mindset can get even further entrenched if they also reside in neighborhoods with only those of like socio-economic means. This particular poverty scenario allows the affluent to become highly insulated from the real-life realities of those at lower socio-economic levels. Thus, these more affluent lean towards losing life-giving empathy.
All of these poverty scenarios are related, in part, to all of our family heritage realities handed to us each at birth. Though, how we relate to others and the lifestyles we craft also depends on personal DNA wiring, our formative learning experiences, and the breaks in life we either get or don’t get.
Wow… it all gets super complicated, doesn't it! All of our “lived experiences” in this same country can be so very different. Then, on top of that, America and our world is still rapidly changing. How in the world should we deal with all of this?... Could there be a universal strategy to help us with our many challenges, much like I need a honed tennis game plan for improvement?
I do wonder what might happen if we all attempted to quit moving so much and actually took the time to engage one another in deeper conversations. Maybe, adapting to postures of really hearing another's story? ... Simply continuing with a certitude-based approach, or not engaging at all, is not really moving us forward. That seems most obvious with our U.S. state of polarization and picking sides.
Could we possibly start engaging in conversation with shifting both our posture and conversational responses towards inclusive listening? Maybe opening our minds towards understanding another's perspective and heritage narrative? Just how might that begin?
A good first step seems to be simply responding with basic questions in conversation or on social media to honor others input. Questions like… Can you help me understand your perspective? Or, can you unpack that a little more? Or maybe, can you tell me your story relating to that? If we could begin asking these questions and listening to others’ personal narratives not very much like our own... well, maybe we could thwart our rampant polarization. And, possibly reinvigorate a beautiful oral tradition within our country.
To me, that just might be the real ‘Moneyball” for a truly abundant and healing game plan for abundant life in our United States of America!