Monday, October 18, 2010

Cooperation Beats Competition

This is chili cook-off, football and festival season, all areas of intense competition. My niece has been recruited to judge a queen contest and a chili event, and we've observed other festival-related contests. I just don't get the competition thing.

I hate competition, even though it seems that everything in life, from beauty to parenting, to eternal salvation becomes a competition in the minds of many. The Almighty gave each of us only certain strengths, and in some of us, a great amount of limitation. I can't be more than I am, but I know I must work to be all I can be. How can I gauge whether I living up to my worth without comparing my contributions to those of others?

Life isn't a chili cook-off or beauty pageant, but sometimes it helps to have others assist us in discerning what's best for us and all those in our network, as well as who is best suited to lead in each lap of life. Sometimes it's difficult to see where discernment ends and competition begins.

I've done an extensive survey of people who profess to know and love me, and the consensus seems to be that my greatest strength is my appreciation of the gifts given to others. I go through life trying to glue people's gifts together, which makes many feel that I'm trying to take control. All I know is that my strength comes from the bonds I have with others, so maybe I try to push wildly diverse people together so they can see how happy it will make them. Maybe many people don't want to be in a pot of gumbo; they'd rather be in a bowl of something more familiar and soothing, like chili.

I know that I'm a cheerleader in life, not ever meant to be the captain of the team. But then again, maybe "captain of the team" is just an illusion created by power-hungry people. I prefer life to be like a relay race, passing the lead role off to others until the race is completed; then the whole team can take a bow.

Not being "captain of a team" material has been extremely problematic for me as a business manager and as a mother. I always felt that my children had not been given to me, but that they had been lent to me for safekeeping. I often questioned the wisdom of putting such a shaky parenthood driver as I am behind the wheel, but somehow there seemed to always be an engineer steering my children safely into adulthood. I am grateful and in awe.

There are many people who drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming, "God is my co-pilot." I wonder if they mean to say, "I'm God's co-pilot." Are we really ever in control? Don't we get ourselves in the most trouble when we allow other voices to compete with the one in our heads that tells us what's moral and prudent?

Whenever I think about the possibility of parenting again, as many grandparents of my generation are doing, I ask The Almighty, "Please don't give me that load to tote. I wasn't comfortable mothering when they were my children; do you really want to jeopardize the good jobs my children are doing with their children by putting me in charge? I certainly wouldn't win in a contest for who is the better parent for children not made by my marriage."

I've immensely enjoyed cooperating with my kids in nurturing their children, but as the teen years loom large on our grandchildren's horizons, our input seems to simply put us at odds. My grandchildren's parents are still alive, healthy, and very capable of continuing to protect and nurture their own progeny. I don't even want to compete for that responsibility. I can still maintain my on-call co-pilot status. What a relief that is! But I sure do miss mothering.