I spent most of the past week in Honduras. For the last 9 months, I have been quietly working on maybe the most significant (and most ambitious) project of my life. We are preparing an official announcement and public launch this November.
While conducting research and documenting our vision, we spent several days at La Providencia—an orphanage in Siguatepeque.
One afternoon, when the sun hid behind the clouds, we began playing with some of the kids. We’d swing them around and they’d climb on our shoulders and back down again.
At one point, I helped a 9-year old girl walk up my legs and chest before backflipping over her arms to land safely on her feet.
After a few successful backflips, her house mom came outside to greet us. The young girl quickly yelled for her mom to watch, hoping to catch her attention. When her house mom acknowledged that she was watching, she flipped one more time and promptly looked over to see if her mom had noticed. I didn’t think much of it at the time—almost every kid does the same.
Towards the end of the evening, we were having dinner with the Director of the Orphanage. Our conversation turned to the difficult process of helping orphaned children learn to trust. Family is an important value at La Providencia. And helping orphans feel a part of one takes both intentionality and patience.
“Did you notice, Joshua, when that girl was swinging on your arms? How she went to get her house mom’s attention? You thought nothing of it, but for us, that is highly significant. It means she is beginning to feel safe. Children in a healthy family relationship would act the same way. They want to show off new accomplishments to their parents and experience acceptance in this way. That is what we hope to provide for these kids—but sometimes, it takes years to get to that point.”
I quickly remembered the different times my children did the same thing, trying to capture their mother’s or father’s attention. Still, even today, my 9-year old daughter will ask me to watch her perform a new trick or show me something she has recently completed. I think it is natural—we desire to be noticed by those we love the most.
This is healthy. But too often, our intentions get misplaced.
Recently, it seems, we have begun to distort this internal need. We still desire to be noticed, but nowadays, with the advent of social media, we desire “likes,” and “retweets,” and “comments,” and “views” and “clicks.” We refresh our Instagram or Facebook page minutes after posting a photo or status update just to see how many other people have clicked a heart or thumbs-up.
Even apart from social media, we experience misplaced intentions. We stay longer at the office in the evening hoping our boss will notice. We commit our kids to just one more extracurricular activity to prove how successful he or she is going to be. Or we buy that luxury item so we can show to the neighbors how successful we are in business.
Granted, in and of themselves, working hard, providing opportunities for our kids, or being successful on social media is not a bad thing. However, when we begin chasing those accolades rather than the most important ones right in front of us, we run down a dangerous road.
There is nothing wrong with putting in extra effort at work… unless your family is eating another meal alone.
There is nothing wrong with providing opportunities for our kids… unless we are using them to display our superiority.
And there is nothing wrong with being active on social media… unless we are sacrificing the relationships right in front of us.
Maybe David Letterman said it best. For 30 years, David has hosted late night television, most recently, The Late Show with David Letterman. This week was his final episode. In an emotional farewell address, he mentioned everyone associated with the show thanking most of them by name.
But when he thanked his wife and son for all their support, he added this comment, “Thank you for being my family. I love you both. And really, nothing else matters, does it?”
I think, at the end of our lives, we will fully realize which people meant the most to us, who showed us the most love, and whose acceptance we most desired. And more times than not, that will be our family and our closest friends—not our boss, not our neighbors, and not strangers on the Internet who clicked a small “like” button.
Let’s live lives that focus on the right things and the right people. Let’s choose to focus our pursuits on the right “likes”—those that come from the people we love the most.