Friday, December 25, 2009

What do you want?

One of my children gave me a copy of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years which, like an earlier book, starts off silly but actually has a lot of depth.

Here's something that struck me: the question of what you (or I) want, and what that says about the story we're living. One of the things that makes the movie Star Wars so great, he says, is

... if I paused the DVD on any frame, I could point toward any major character and say exactly what that person wanted. No character had a vague ambition. It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.
A Million Miles..., p. 113
Then some pages later, this:
The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person's story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don't want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaners, we are living stupid stories. If it won't work in a story, it won't work in life.
A Million Miles..., pp. 124-125
Well, I guess I'm living rather a boring story because I've got just about everything I've ever wanted. I wish some problems would go away (we all have problems after all) but that's stuff I don't want.

So why do I think this is so profound? He mentioned a family where a 13-year-old daughter was caught in a bad story. She had pot in her closet and dated a boy who was bad for her. After thinking about the story they were all in (girl misbehaves, father yells, mother weeps), her father came up with another story. He did some research and heard about an organization that builds orphanages in other countries. He found out how these orphanages helped kids -- kids who were otherwise in all kinds of danger.

He decided that the whole family should work toward building an orphanage. This would cost some $25,000. They didn't have this sort of money lying around, so living out this story would would involve some sacrifice, but it gave them a sense of purpose, and drew them together as a team. Rather than bickering while adrift, they were heroes working toward a greater goal.

He should have consulted his wife first, but they came to embrace the vision. The daughter dropped the bad boy; heroes don't put up with abuse.

It's nice that the story is turning out well, at least for now, but what I take away from it more than that is: I probably should have a clearer idea of what it is I want in this stage of my life.

And how about you? What do you want? If your life (or mine) were a movie and we froze the frame right now -- and if a viewer pointed at you... what do you want? What's your ambition, your story? What do I want?

Our answers are important, not just for us, but for those around us, too.

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