Confluence … July 12, 2012


It was an odd sensation. Not odd in the sense of bizarre, but rather, intriguing, invigorating–spine-tingling, if you will.

He stopped off at my motel room before he headed off to be in Chicago with his wife. He’s a full-grown man but he calls me Pop. The reason for that lovely addressing is that when he was just about ten years old, a rocky storm of a family in peril deposited him on my shore. I took him in as a son. He gradually took me in as a possibility.

We sat and talked yesterday for what ended up being much longer than a traditional farewell. What made this situation particularly unique was that thirty-four years earlier, I sat in a room with his father when he was exactly the same age, discussing many of the same dilemmas, coming to mostly identical conclusions.

But this time it was different.

When I talked to his father, I was only five years his senior–and he was deeply engrained in a culture which possessed too much macho and not enough tenderness for discovery. His father was frightened, nervous, incriminated, worried, horny and broke. It is not a particularly appealing buffet of possibilities. His father was driving around in a beat-up yellow Ford Pinto with a burnt valve, which only started on mornings when there was absolutely no moisture in the air. His father was wounded, but not seeking treatment. His father was angry, but content with the rage. His father was ignorant, while adding the unnecessary and unseemly addition of being arrogant. I worked with his father for a long time, and although there were occasional hints of progress, he always returned to his roots instead of honoring his new sprouts.

So yesterday, when this fine, young man came to my motel room, talking about his life, he lamented that he was a little nervous that he might end up being like his dad.

I laughed. I wasn’t trying to be scornful or disrespectful to this fine fellow; it just seemed humorous to me that this particular insecurity was plaguing him. For you see, something had changed. The curse of repetition of father to son had been broken by the power of a confluence.

It is impossible for two things to remain identical if one insists on changing the level of experience. It is the reason that our society is not moving forward–because we are not admitting our frailties to our children and sending them to places where they can learn how to be stronger than we were. Some folks who tout the name of Mother and Father even feel great pride that their children are exactly like them.

God forbid.

The greatest love you can have for your son or daughter is to wish that they will take the better parts of you, reject the worst and go out and experience more than you did, so that in their souls there can be a confluence of newness.

What is a confluence? It is when the combined streams of many rivers join together to form a heart.  And that is what we’re supposed to be.

The young man sitting in my room could never be his father because:

  • he traveled to China to learn more about our world
  • he met a young woman there, fell in love with her, married her and has a son
  • he walked the streets among the poor in that country, learning their ways, their language and their customs
  • he dealt with his temper by seeking ways to find peace in his soul and harmony with those around him
  • he learned a craft of making movies instead of complaining about his lack of ability
  • he made friends with his wife’s family and has their support instead of their disdain
  • he keeps in contact with his brothers and family here in the United States, letting them know of his love and concern
  • he drives a car that starts with a key instead of needing the will of God
  • he came to the United States with his dear lady to aid her in continuing her education and dreams

Do you see what I mean? He created new rivers from the waters of his soul, to generate a confluence that was guaranteed to be different from that of his hapless father.

It is what we need. Every conservative should have to spend three weeks of his life living in poverty in the inner city. Every liberal who blithely contends that abortion is a choice should take their turn counseling and listening at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. Every Republican should work in a food stamp office and every Democrat should go deer hunting with some of the good folks down in Rome, Georgia. Every religious person should go out and see some of the injustice and pain in the world before they produce the silly piping of “God is good–all the time.” And every atheist should sit in the hospital room of a soul of faith, dying of cancer, and sense the angels entering the room to retrieve a friend.

America suffers because we have one stream of thinking instead of a confluence of many rivers of reason. No one ever became a worse person by opening up to learn about how other human beings feel. It is why we celebrate Jesus–because he insisted that the whole world was to be loved, not just Jew or Arab–and he picked up some boxes and moved God and Allah out of Mesopotamia to a home on the entire planet.

Jesus created a confluence. So did the young man who sat in my room yesterday. I was touched because he was concerned about his destiny, but he has already determined the power of his journey by sending in more water.

It’s a confluence–a decision to let fresh streams into our thinking, which will make us realize that the world is not quite as simple as Mom and Dad made it, and not nearly as complicated as we fear it to be.


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