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Faith and Values: Making threshold decisions every day

Paul Graves, Faith and Values columnist for the Spokesman-Review. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Graves, Faith and Values columnist for the Spokesman-Review. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
The Rev. Paul Graves

Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,

The occasion of this letter to you is Katie’s high school graduation that we celebrated in early June. But the thoughts I share with you are not tied to graduation of any kind – except as graduation focuses our attention on decision-making. Yet we make important decisions every day.

What also focused my attention on this life-work was watching Sox, our young cat, as he sat on the threshold of the door leading to our deck. He always stops in the doorway, half-in and half-out, like he can’t decide if he wants to go out or stay in. We laugh at him in faux frustration.

Making small decisions helps us develop the skills and confidence it takes to take bigger and bigger decisions. When you were 6, Katie, you didn’t yet have those skills and confidence to know what you wanted to do after high school.

You still have questions about your future, but you’re better prepared to know when to make decisions and when to just “sit on the threshold,” waiting for a better sense of what to do. Knowing when to move and when to sit is a very important intuitive sense to develop.

I’m looking once again at the “Grampa Day” card you sent me. Your notes remind me not only of your love but also your willingness to consider my life experience as a tool for your own learning about life. Thank you!

Your own life experiences serve you well also, kids. Andy turned 13 as Katie was graduating, and Claire is still learning what being 16 is all about. You all have been touched by wonderful experiences and painful experiences. They all help shape you into being better human beings.

Grandma and I were struck by the wonderful and obvious racial/ethnic diversity you are part of. Your own Mexican-American backgrounds have made you sensitive to that diversity.

Katie, we were struck by nearly 50 percent of your classmates being Latino, plus a number of other ethnic backgrounds represented also. Andy’s sixth-grade is very diverse too, based on the sixth-grade “promotion” ceremony we attended. Such diversity has great upsides, though it has its downsides.

We know you’ve experienced both sides. But we are proud all three of you stand up for people when they get bullied, and speakup when you see something unjust happening in your school and community.

You are learning to look beyond a person’s name, or looks or background and see that person as a real human being. Sometimes I know you sit on the threshold, wondering what to do when you see another person needing to be encouraged or even protected.

The next time you are on that threshold – wondering – consider what St. Paul reminded his Galatian church friends in his letter to them (Galatians 3:28). He held up Jesus’ life as the life to imitate, a man who knew no prejudice because his love of persons stripped away all kinds of outer differences:

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Paul dismissed divisions that were important in his time, in his culture. Today, we have other divisions we might identify.

The point is there are no divisions in the community God intends for us to help build. You three are doing, in your own ways at this point of your lives, what you can to tear down the walls others insist on building. Grandma and I are working with you!



The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at

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