Dad and Maps

Dad and Maps

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Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord ~ Judges 18:6

My husband always laughs that I will almost never say that I am lost.  I may say something like:  “I know where I am, I just don’t know how to get to where I am going.”  Or “I know where I just was, but I am a little uncertain about how I got to here."

If it sounds like I am unwilling to ask for directions — which may also be true — I think I am mostly not willing to declare myself lost every time I experience disorientation.  I view moments of disorientation as precisely the time to gather information.  I am more fully found after such periods of being lost
 
This comes from a lesson my father taught all his children. 
 
My family of origin moved a lot.  When we arrived in a new location, my father would, when heading home from some chore or outing, put one of the four of us in the front seat (it was before the time of seat belt laws), and let that kid direct his drive back home.  Right or left or straight, whatever you said was the way that he would drive the car.  In this way, he would patiently take us about, orienting the family to the new town.  Sometimes one of us would get in a real pickle, and he would see if he could talk us back a few steps (“what was the last thing your recognized?”) Other times, when someone floundered too long, he would simply say:  we better hurry back, mom is probably ready for dinner.  And very often, even as we were discovering how one path was connected to another, he was acquiring orienting information as well. 
 
You better believe that those of us in the back seat paid attention!  You might be in the front seat next, and you certainly wanted to know if Prospect Street came up before or after Shakey’s Pizza.  
 
Once we were home, we would pull out the maps and try to trace the paths taken and the ones not taken. In this way, usually within a month or so, we would all have a pretty good sense of the new world around us.  As a result, the Townsley sibs are known as good with maps and directions.   
 
Some people say it's a gift.  But science shows that we might have the ability to construct map-like concepts of space from a young age.  But, it's a use it or lose it proposition.  And there is a lot that we do (GPS) that means we simply don’t use it. 
 
I thank my father, not only because I can find my car in the airport parking lot, but also because the method of discovery that he taught has been essential to my life and work.  I start with a low expectation that I will get it right from the get go. No matter, discovery is an essential part of the process.  I know that paying attention and observing are vital to finding myself and others and knowing what is evolving in the world around me.  I know that those moments of being disoriented — ok, I’ll say it, lost — are often the most packed with information that will be useful in the near future.  Let me put it this way:  Innovation may well begin with disorientation.   
 
In this moment, when much has changed and will continue to shift, we are in a new place with not a lot of information about how to get to where we want to go.  Still, we don’t have to get it right immediately.  Mistaken pathways lead to terrific information.  Paying attention to ourselfto othersto our organization, and to our community is essential in reorienting ourselves to whatever new world we will find ourselves in.  And while relying on experts in technical matters is wise, when you are adapting to the changing world, there is nothing like the spirit of openness, curiosity about the world around you, and paying attention to whatever signposts you find along the way.   
 
Map Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

Author

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Suzi P. Townsley

The Rev. Suzi Townsley is the Associate Conference Minister for Innovation, Leadership and Change

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