Like most of us in modern America, I am a coffee addict.
I start every morning with two to three cups of aromalicious goodness. (And when I say cups, I actually mean two to three over-sized mugs full.)
I've gone through periods when I've given up coffee for a few weeks (or a few days). And it's terrible.
Forget feeling overtired and being cranky. Not having coffee completely throws off my morning routine thereby throwing off my entire day.
Wake-up, workout, start the coffee pot, shower, pour a cup, sit down to spend time with the Lord and recenter myself for the day ahead with the warmth and aroma of my coffee enveloping me.
No coffee? An unfocused wondering mind, reading the same few verses over and over (not for meditational purposes), the occasional head nod, and a day reflecting the break in routine.
So when I read an article in the latest issue of Relevant Magazine about new research indicating our coffee addictions are causing us to live constantly in the flight or fight response and may therefore be affecting our ability to respond to conflict and interact with one another in a positive, proactive kind of way, I started to question my daily intake.
Are my two plus over-sized mugs (and let's be honest, I often refill when I get to the office) with their brain-stimulating caffeinated tickle and their life giving antioxidants really doing me as much good as I'd like to believe they are?
The nature of my job--providing free counseling services for at-risk youth--means most of my clients are the kids who've been labeled the "bad kids", the kids who will never amount to anything, the kids who will drop out, go to jail, and generally fail in life.
It's a hard label to work past when it's the only label you've ever had. Eventually you start internalizing it. Eventually you start believing it. Eventually you are the bad kid and might as well just be the bad kid.
I met with one of these bad kids yesterday.
He told me how he has to be the parent in his home. He told me about his parents telling them they don't care about him, where he goes or where he lives. He told me about the times he's nearly died and how he doesn't think he's supposed to be here.
As he released all these feelings and hurts he's been bottling up for so long, I sat and listened.
I listened and I prayed and knew this was the moment--this was the moment where this kid, this almost man, would decide his label. This was the moment where he would decide whether he is supposed to be here or not, and if he's supposed to be here, and what that means for the rest of his life.
I told him I knew he was intelligent. Emotionally intelligent. A philosopher. I told him I knew he was a person who could and has overcome. A leader. I told him I knew he was a good big brother and would continue to be a positive force in his sister's life. A nurturer. I told him I think he is supposed to be here.
I told him this time, right now, maybe this was the time when he got to make the choice--the time when he got to decide what happens next. Forget mom. Forget dad. Forget everyone who ever told him he couldn't. Forget everyone who ever called him a bad kid. Forget everyone who ever said he would never amount to anything.
This is his moment.
Sometimes even when we know a thing is bad for us, even when we know there's a better something ahead, we don't make the choice because making the choice is hard.
Our nature is to stay with what is comfortable--to stay with what we know.
It takes courage to break out of our patterns and decide we want something better, something more. It takes courage to abandon the labels which allow us to hide in our patterns. It takes courage to be something better than our present day selves.
It takes courage to give up our vices. It takes courage to give up our addictions. It takes courage to say no to the things holding us back. It takes courage to look into our future and believe for a different kind of future than the present we are currently living.
Looking into this kid's eyes, I knew I couldn't make the decision for him. I knew he had to decide for himself.
I can direct him and guide him there. I can support him in the hard work it will take to get to the better future. I can be by his side helping him get there and cheering him along the way. But I can't make the decision for him. He has too make it for himself.
We all have to make those hard decisions for ourselves.
We all have to decide if we'll pick the better future. We all have to decide if our vice is worth the consequence.
We all have to decide.
I don't know what he'll choose. I don't know whether this will be the turning point for him. I don't know if he'll choose a better future. I don't know if he'll throw away the bad kid label and start living for the better future ahead.
I don't know.
What I do know is...
I only drank one over-sized mug full this morning.