What I Learnt from Having My Dad For The Past Three Weeks ( and why you should connect with your family NOW)

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Dada left.

We’d spend almost a month together and yesterday, he caught a flight back to Michigan from where we are in California.

It’s been surreal having him around. There has to be a word that’s more memorable than “memorable” to describe the experiences I’ve had with him during the past few weeks. My pastor once made a profound statement about recording events and memories. He said that “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” What you’re about to read, then, is my “scribbling” on “scratch paper” for my sake and, hopefully, for your sake as well.

I’ve taken my family for granted.

In theory, my family is priority. In reality, they have been tolerable at best. My itinerant living and independence have only aggravated this. Every time I get to spend time with them, however, a wave of guilt rushes over reminding me of the times I haven’t put the effort to make that phone call or send that Facebook message.

You tend to realize the value of something when you don’t have it. And that’s exactly how I felt when I came back from the airport and saw dada’s shorts lying around in the room.

I need to be more intentional about communicating with my family. No excuses.

Love is giving.

Last night I was watching the second sequel of Star Trek with my girlfriend. Khan’s riveting question to Captain Kirk after his capture got me thinking:

My crew is my family. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family, Captain?

My family may not be my crew. But I can’t begin to describe how much my family has sacrificed for me to have what I have. When we were on our way to Chicago, my dad and I got into a minor squabble about showing love. I argued that while I knew he was doing a lot for me and Khayali, he should affirm me verbally by saying nice and encouraging things. My dad sighed. Then he went on to vividly recount all the sacrifices amma and he had made so that Khayali l and I could have an education overseas.

By the time he finished, the waterworks began from my eyes. When I tried to give him a lesson on “words of affirmation” from Chapman’s infamous “5 love languages,” dada shut me up by giving me a dissertation on sacrificial love.

I was reminded that evening that love is giving. It gives continuously and sacrificially. I thought I knew it. My parents had lived it.

Be yourself.

My dad is as Sri Lankan as one gets.

You can get the man out of Sri Lanka. But you cannot get Sri Lanka out of the man.

As I type, I am wearing the sarama he wore while he was here in California. From where I am sitting, I can also see the strainer he used to make his morning tea. In addition to that, I also remember the big hugs, the quintessential Sri Lankan head bob, and the “aiyo’s” he would appropriately employ at a given location. But wherever he went, people felt a genuine sense of kindness, respect, and hospitality emanating from his distinct personality.

In the past few weeks, Dada reminded me that I don’t have to respond to the pressure of conforming to the culture around me to have influence. Dada showed that I can be my Sri-Lankan, “fresh-off-the-boat” self and still make a difference in the lives of those I interact with.

God is love.

Dada being here was a miracle.

Few weeks before my graduation, dada, amma, and khayali showed up at the U.S embassy in Oman for their visa interviews. To our shock and dismay, all three of them were denied visas fearing that they will not come back to Oman after being seduced by the “greener pastures” of the country.  (-___- )

My dad then reapplied for the visa alone hoping for a miracle. And that’s what happened. My mom and sister decided to spend the vacation in Sri Lanka whereas Dada flew over to the States to be with me.

God has showed His love these past few weeks in very tangible ways.

Out of His love, He brought my dad to witness the ceremony of the first college grad of his family.
Out of His love, He allowed my dad to meet the man who changed his life indefinitely.
Out of His love, He gave opportunity for my dad to see friends he hadn’t seen in decades.
Out of His love, He helped me get closer to my father.
Out of His love, He reignited my love of my family.
Out of His love, He drew our family closer to each other and to Him.

I believe none of this happened by chance or luck.  I wholeheartedly attribute me being here and my dad coming here to the goodness and the grace of a personal, Almighty God who cares about you and me.

—–

I miss my father. But I know I will see him again. It’s been refreshing and wonderful having him around.

My prayer for you, dear friend and reader, is that you’ll take some time to connect with your family. Truth is that as much as you and I hate to think about it, they’re not always going to be around.

“I have no time” is not a reason. It’s an excuse. You make time for what you want to make time for.

So get off the chair. Close the laptop. Close your browser.

Make that phone call. They’ll love you for it.


This Man is the Reason I’m Still Here ( A True Story)

Once upon a time there was a boy.

This boy was born in the verdant tea plantations of Sri Lanka to a humble tea worker and his wife. The family of 7 was poor, but had everything they hoped for in each other.

Life was good. 🙂

Then Christmas happened.

Christmas that year was anything but merry. That night, the boy’s relatives had come to his house to mourn the loss of their uncle who’d tragically passed away.  A house of celebration was turned into a house of mourning when a corpse replaced the conifer as the centerpiece of his home. The boy was distraught. “This can’t be Christmas. It can’t get worse than this”  he thought.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Just then, someone from the house decided to pump more air into the kerosene lamp because there wasn’t enough light.

All it took was one pump.

The kerosene lamp burst into liquified flames which spilled on a number of people. The mourning turned to wailing as people were trying to reach the nearest exit to escape the conflagration. The 10-year old screamed and shouted for help. With his crying baby sister carefully tucked in his hands, the boy rushed out of the burning house desperate to find the rest of his siblings.

As he rapidly surveyed the smoky air for someone who can help, his eyes fell on a familiar silhouette. “AMMA! (mom) ” he tried to scream above the screams. “WE ARE HERE!!”

The boy was elated to see the one person who’d always been there for him. That can’t be anybody else but her. “AMMA!! AMMA!! COME HERE!! WHERE ARE YOU?? WE ARE….”

Suddenly he froze.

As the smoke cleared just enough to see, the boy witnessed a sight that would change his life forever.

His mom was screaming while being burned alive by the flames.

She suffered from severe third degree burns all over her body and died a few days later.
After the death of his wife, the father sent the boy and his 4 siblings to the homes of his brothers because he couldn’t work and take care of them at the same time. The boy was scarred for life. He missed his mom, dad, and 4 siblings who were adopted by other family members. In addition to the emotional pain felt, the boy also endured physical pain caused by his uncles. Finally, on the 2 year anniversary of his mom’s death, the 12 yr old took his meager saving of 10 rupees ( less than a dollar), his luggage consisting of one white t-shirt and a blue pair of shorts, and ran away from his family in an effort to put his life back together.

fast forward 5 years.

The 16-year old was working as a house boy for some American doctoral students after weeks of being homeless, food-less, and restless. One of the students, Mr.Ron Walcott, took notice of the boy’s work ethic and offered him work as his assistant.  Soon thereafter, the boy would travel all over Sri Lanka to help translate Sinhala and Tamil to English while Mr.Walcott analyzed that data for his dissertation. For the next 4 years, the American would be this boy’s father, teacher, and mentor.

The dissertation was done. The time came for Mr.Walcott to leave Sri Lanka.

The satisfaction of a job well done was eclipsed by his imminent departure from the boy.  He knew that once he left, the boy would be left in the streets. Nobody is going to hire a dhemalaya ( derogatory term for a tamil-speaker) let alone a 3-rd grade dropout.

It dawned on him that the best thing he could do to help the boy was to provide him with a good education.

Mr. Walcott took the boy to the best high-school in Kandy at the time, argued with the principal to get the over-aged boy enrolled, paid his school fees for the next 3 years, and left the country.

—————

40 years have passed since.

I’m in southern California as I write this and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the events that led up to this moment.

you see,

The boy was my father.

Because of the kindness of Mr.Walcott, my father was able to finish high school, meet my mom in the same school, get married, get a nursing degree, work as a nurse in Sri Lanka, and currently work as an orthopedic staff nurse in Oman.

A month ago, my father came to the States for the first time in his life to see his son graduate from college.

Today, for the first time in over 35 years, he was able to meet the man who literally changed his life forever.

And I took a selfie with both of them 🙂

I probably wouldn’t have been born if not for the kindness and benevolence of Mr. Walcott. My dad wouldn’t have been in school and never would have met my mom. But the Lord has been so kind to us through and through and has used a random American guy to deliver my dad from poverty and position his family for greatness.

If you’re reading this, you are privileged. You have something that someone else doesn’t.

I don’t care who you are or what you have, but you have the power to change someone’s life.

I invite you to make a decision to change someone’s life today.

One person.

All it takes is seeing a need and DOING something about it.

Who knows. You might even affect the lives of people who aren’t even born yet.

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College.

I graduated from college last week.

Still hasn’t hit me yet.

But as I go through memory lane, I can’t help but think about  missed opportunities, a few regrets, and some setbacks which stemmed because I lacked this one thing:

Information.

Looking back, these are a few things I wish someone told me before I started college.

1) College is not a bigger high school.

I don’t know about you but I thought that college was just a glorified high school.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My perception of Andrews University was largely shaped by my high school experience. I always used to compare college as “harder”, “bigger” and “better” than high school. While all those are certainly true, I wish someone would have told me that university life and high school life are two entirely different things.

In high school, you had to go to classes. In college, you didn’t.

In high school, you had to keep your room habitable. In college, nobody cared as long as you don’t die of some fungal disease.

In high school, you are used to taking orders from teachers. In college, you have the wherewithal to start a revolution if you wanted to.

The freedom is palpable in college. You could do whatever you want. Which leads to the next thing I wish someone would have told me before starting college.

2) You are not an island.

I wish someone would have told me that while I had the freedom to do whatever I wished, I couldn’t do whatever I wished.

Let me rephrase that.

Just because I COULD do what I want to do, didn’t mean I SHOULD do what I want to do.

Why? Because even if I wanted to, I could not be an island all by myself; I am inevitably going to be a part of a community. And being a part of  a community means enjoying privileges but also having responsibilities.

Andrews felt like one humongous family. With just 3500 students, it’s very likely that you’d bump into the same person more than once in the same day!  Because of  such a small community, I felt more responsible for those I communed with. This sense of responsibility only deepened as I served as an officer in our student association. I wish someone would have told me that while I had the freedom and independence to do what I wanted to do at school, I should be mindful of the community I was going to be a part of.  Knowing this earlier would have alleviated some stress.

3) 
Be yourself.  

I was bullied in high school.

I wanted to fit in. Bad. So I tried to be someone I wasn’t to win the approval of others.

Unfortunately, I packed this ideology in my luggage and carried it with me to my dorm room.

I wish someone would have told me that I didn’t need to pretend in college. I didn’t need to be someone I was not.

I wish someone would have told me that it was perfectly fine to be me.

During my freshman and sophomore years, it was a harrowing experience trying to emulate what mr.popular, or mr.hipster was doing. But I began to take pride in my fresh-off-the-boat self when someone mentioned that I had a “cool” accent and a not-so-shabby fashion sense. That was the beginning of a journey that I’m still on. I realized that the more I valued myself, the more authentic I was. And the more authentic I allowed myself to be, the more effective I was as a leader.

Authenticity is currency. I wish someone would have told me that early on.

4) Get involved.

Nothing is detrimental to the joy of college life than passivity.

I wish someone would have told me that before I came to Andrews as a freshman.

Most of my cherished college memories are centered around the co-curricular activities that I had been a part of. I wouldn’t have had the joy of working with different teams, meeting new people, and pushing boundaries if I didn’t take an initiative to get involved and serve. However, one of my few regrets in college was that I didn’t get involved sooner.

I wonder how much richer my college experience would have been if I’d made Carpe Diem my daily goal the first day of class.  

Get involved. Early.

finally, I wish someone would have told me that…

5)   Education is not the most important thing about college.

You heard me.

Can I be honest with you?

I can distill EVERYTHING I’ve retained academically over the past 4 years into a 2 page paper ( Times New Roman, Double-spaced, Headings the size of Africa. 12pt font. periods sized 13).
I have forgotten most of what I have learnt in my classes. I have forgotten the contents of most of the papers I’ve written. I have forgotten most of the sermons I’ve listened to at church.

But what I am not able to forget, will take with me for the rest of my life, are the relationships I’ve made with the wonderful people I’ve met over the years.

The $46,000 I owe to the government is worth it for the close friendships I’ve made in college. Hands down.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m utterly grateful for the education I’ve received. It’s been nothing short of a miracle and a blessing from God. But I’m convinced that it’s not the most important thing in the college experience. If anything, the education I’ve received has made me a well-rounded individual to better relate to others in the global village.

I wish someone would have told me earlier that the “A” in Theology I was only worth it if it helped me engage empathetically with others who think and believe differently.

Education is important. Relationships are more important.

These are just 5 of the many things I’ve learnt from my college experience.  But enough about me. What about you?? What have you learnt from your college experience so far??

Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?

The Wilson household took prayer seriously.

Daily personal prayer as well as family prayer was encouraged. But growing up, I’ve often times wondered if prayer really made any difference.

Because what I’d known about prayer sometimes did not quite reflect the reality of my experiences.

For one, I couldn’t quite relate the unfathomable Bible stories with today’s context. Why can’t people call down fire from heaven, raise up people from the dead, or convert multitudes to faith in God, with a single prayer to God like those guys?
My experiences with prayer also made me question its veracity. Why doesn’t God answer certain prayers especially when they are so important to me?

I eventually realized that these questions stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of prayer:

Prayer is not about bringing God to me. Prayer is about bringing me to God.

This realization led me to understand prayer as communication with a living God and not a calling bell for a cosmic butler. Just because some prayers are not answered the way I expect them to doesn’t mean they are not heard or answered. Nor does it mean that prayer is unreliable. Sometimes, the answer happened to be a “no” and I had to learn to trust the heart of God when I didn’t see his hand.

Prayer is communication. But does prayer really make a difference? I believe it does and here are just two reasons why.

1) It’s the direct 24/7 hotline to God.

We live in an age of accessibility. From recipes to reality shows, from DIY’s to daily news, everything is a mere click or a touch away. Communication, more than ever before in earth’s history, has inarguably become faster and easier. Social media has reduced the distance between colleagues and continents to a single Facebook message. But while my friend may be a tweet away, God is only a thought away.

We clamor for the latest gadgets with the fastest processing speeds, failing to realize that prayer has always had the fastest processing time. It has not only proved to be fast and convenient, but also significantly meaningful. In a world blighted by feel-good morals, and feeling-based theologies, God is a sure stronghold. And unlike friends who could possibly ditch a Skype call at a moment’s notice to meet some need, God is available 24/7, ever ready to meet mine.

2) There’s nothing else that helps me overcome my limitations

In the Bible, there’s a story about a man who was swallowed by a whale. The utter improbability of the story and its intended theology notwithstanding, this story, I suggest, may as well be a cautionary tale against man’s insatiable appetite for control and power. As long as we stay afloat, we pride ourselves for commandeering our ships across the chaotic sea of knowledge, navigating its waters with the trusty oars of technology and innovation. But occasionally, history repeats itself when the whales of worry, despair, or doubt devour us somewhere along the way. It doesn’t take too long after that to realize that the captain’s manual is of little use in the belly of the fish.

Life constantly reminds me of my limitations as a human being.

The Psalmist echoes this sentiment by likening man to a mere breath and his days to a “passing shadow.” All the accolades accrued and the security insured over the course of your life simply cannot compensate for the fragility of life, however much we may hate to admit it.

We live. We die.

But in God, we thrive. Strengthened by the grace of God, The apostle Paul exclaims that in Christ, when he’s weak, then he’s strong. This paradox can only be justified by Paul staying connected to God through prayer. Paul overcame his temporal weakness by relying upon the eternal strength of God through prayer.

Prayer is my life line. When I’m humbled and overcome by the storms of life, I pray. It’s almost instinctive.

The world has become smaller. As the lines between cultures and countries increasingly blur through the exploits of man, the boundaries between the Divine and us seem to expand. Consequently, we have become more adept at communicating with our fellow human beings while struggling to maintain a decent conversation with God.

I’ve come to realize that there is a strong correlation between my interactions with others and my interaction with God. When I pray more, I love more. When I pray more, I share more. When I pray more, I relate more. and the converse is also true. I challenge you to take a few minutes today to pray. Talk to God. Tell him about your day, your wishes, your likes, dislikes, anything. Yes, he does know everything. Yes, He is very much aware. Yes, it may seem like prayer is pointless.

But prayer is not about bringing God to you. It’s about bringing you to God.

And when you bring yourself to Him, your life changes.

So go ahead.

Close your eyes.

Pray.