There is a hilarious image I have in mind of a cartoonish, slightly more balding version of me, giving myself a Homer Simpson slap on the forehead and exclaiming “DOH!” as I think back on just how many things I got wrong as I was growing up. For instance, one of the biggest realizations I’ve had is that my Pepop, my now ninety plus-year-old grandfather, was far wiser than I ever gave him credit for when I was a young man and a teenager.
I used to think when this balding, beer and garbage truck-driving, Brooklyn, NY, through and through, quintessentially Italian “welfare wop” (as some straight out of the Appalachian Trail mountain folks I used to know dubbed us), gave me advice, that he was a bit naive. If I am being really honest, although I worshipped this man, occasionally, I thought that Pepop, who was a brilliant storyteller, was more full of “$hit” than he was CHIT (I’ll explain this acronym in a minute). This was most true, one time when he gave me the following advice:
“Be average Johnny, don’t be no better than nobody and don’t be no worse”
I remember thinking, as a brash young person, that this meant he wanted me to be ordinary and not stand out or try to achieve great things. My developing brain could not grasp what he meant as I helped him create garlic-filled culinary delights from my stove-side perch on the kitchen chair. While I was always anxious to hear his advice, I didn’t listen as well as I could have. Even as he would share his working man’s wisdom with me, I always had a good bit of my arrogant-“I’m gonna make it outta this hood” filter on.
That kind of chip develops early when you feel like your life is not as good as the one other people are living around you. Your shoulder gets heavy at a young age when trapped in comparisons with the kids who have the trademark surfer wear and Levi’s and live in the middle-class neighborhood and you are wearing Salvation army clothes and helping your grandfather cook with salvaged veggies from the Publix dumpster across the street.
I now know that was all an unnecessary narrative I told myself in a vain attempt to be the hero of my own pity party story. I now know that I had everything that was most important right there, exemplified in a man who worked his butt off to help us have a nice Sunday dinner and then came home and cooked it on Sunday with very few complaints and an abundance of joy and laughter. I now know what he really was trying to tell me. Some of you may not follow Jesus, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that following Him has helped me figure this out, albeit much later than I would have liked. Whether you agree that He is the answer or not, I hope you appreciate what I recently learned about how to encapsulate this learning from Northpoint ministries. Here is my re-write of his advice with that knowledge and without the chip on my shoulder.
“Johnny -the key to life is to be full of CHIT at all times. Johnny be Curious, be Humble, be Intentional and be Teachable.” Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t try to outdo them. Don’t think you are lesser than them. Just be who you were created to be and love others as you would yourself along the way.
(oh…. and “pass me dat oregano,” this needs much, much, much more oregano, always more, never enough, like covering the top of the dark, rich red sauce in a pasture of green amount of the $hit.)
It is not easy to achieve and I fail at it every single day, but I believe it is inestimably worthwhile to try and assume this posture in life. Are you full of CHIT? What steps can you take to be more full of this posture today? Tomorrow? All the days going forward?