Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To Whom Much is Given....Kwame Kilpatrick and Promise Unfulfilled

Promise, Potential and Problems 

But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. - Luke 12:48

I lived in and around the metro-Detroit community for nearly 10 years.  I can't think of our lives or our children without thinking about the time we spent making the drive up and down I-75.  As a Buckeye by nature, Michigan was an escape, an exploration ground, a place for growing.

I took the verdict in the Kwame Kilpatrick case more personally than many people I know.  I think I took it harder than I anticipated.  I would enter a conversation about the sad state of affairs that currently exists, and some would respond with a wide  brush of  "what he deserved", "the death of Detroit" and other general replies that just didn't capture what I was feeling.  I consider the verdict more than an overdue punishment, I think of  it as a tremendous loss.

I can't say I ever admired Kwame, but I did believe that he had potential.  The longer I lived in Detroit, the more I learned about the challenges of getting things done, the less I understood about his purpose, plan or potential.  It made me sad at the time, but eventually we left.  We are not native Detroiters, we moved first out of the city, then out of the state.  We cared deeply and gave back in more ways that I can count, but it wasn't home and it wasn't moving in the direction where we could raise our family and thrive.  We felt that we had to make a different choice.

I think about the choices that Kwame made and I have worked to learn more about him since we left.  Even before learning about his academic and sports achievements and the promise he held in the eyes of those around him, I thought of him as a future leader of my generation.  I thought that our kids are of similar ages, and I thought about the fact that he is someone's child.  I decided to write, not about his choices or the sad spiral of a legacy that now exists - but about the loss of potential.  How is it possible that someone with raw talent, ability and acumen can fall so far?

I believe in a God of grace and a God of second chances, and a God of consequences.  I thank God for his grace, and the third, fourth and fifth chances I get everyday.  I also know how painful the consequences can be, and how learning lessons over and over again may not resonate until you have grown to understand why you keep repeating a set of behaviors.  I have had public success and public failure - but never on the scale of Kwame Kilpatrick.  I remember a cabinet appointment he once made, and I thought that I would have fulfilled the role well - but I wasn't "in" the crowd, or connected in that way.  I now thank God for that too.  Understanding the tremendous price the City of Detroit and the many dedicated people who love the city have paid, I wonder now about the people that surrounded him, his family, his colleagues, his cabinet and his life.  What is the obligation to speak up, speak out and speak loudly, when you see someone running away from their purpose? What do we do in our everyday lives to redirect and reclaim the potential around us?

As a mother of boys, my heart goes out - not to Kwame - but to the countless families who have their personal failures experienced in a public forum.  To whom much is given, much is required.  I delight in the potential of my boys, ages 9 and 10, and I wonder about their future.  Today my 9 year old asked me where he should go to college - our ride to school was filled with conversations about what he aspires to do, and what we can do to support his aspirations.  Mothers across the country have this conversation every day.  They squeal with delight at a perfect presentation score, mourn a lack of productivity lost to play station or a tablet, invest in athletic programs, raise up a child "in the way that he should go" and pray for safety, health and wisdom.  Under that abundance of passion and promise - there must be a purpose, a plan and a set of values that guide both the "how" and the "what" we do.

The lessons from this tale of morality run deep - for parents and children alike.  What do we do when we see promise and potential in abundance - what lessons do we teach and what systems to be build - so that his story is not the story that gets told over and over again.  There are so many young men who have the potential to impact, likely change, the world.  The true teaching, training and impact starts with building their character and their core.  I was reminded as I read countless articles about the verdict, that the responsibility starts at home.  If you learn to value the prize at the end of the journey, before you understand the importance of the journey, we lose much more than one person.  We have the potential to lose whole generations.  I have been reflective for the past few weeks about what I need to teach, what I need to do, how often I should that the next cautionary tale doesn't hit closer to home.  We can do better if we learn something from this.  I believe we must.

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