Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Watching Jim Bob

Are you familiar with the Duggar family?

These great folks are the subject of an interesting TV show called "18 Kids & Counting". It's more or less a wholesome reality show about the day-to-day life of a family with 18 children. Besides the daily adventures of the family, there are many moments that should prompt a little self-examination from the viewer.

Over the last few seasons of the show, the head of the family, Jim Bob Duggar, has on two specific occasions laid down an example that should make every husband and father squirm.

The first was an episode that featured a family trip in an older-model RV that was also towing a large trailer. The family had prepared for days, packed with precision, planned for everything, and finally launched off on the trip, only to have the RV overheat and break down just a few miles down the highway, unable to handle the weight of the trailer behind it.

So, there was Jim Bob, with wife and children in tow, broken down on the side of the road, with the hopes of a joyful trip hanging in the balance.

No joke, no exaggeration: The man never batted an eye. Never broke a sweat. Thought and spoke calmly, but quickly. Not a hint of frustration. No sign of despair. The man regrouped, devised a new plan, fixed the vehicle HIMSELF, and got the family back on the road, joking later on about the pace of the trip thus far.

What?!?

Is this guy a robot? Is he just doing this for the cameras? Would he really, like most of the rest of us, blow his stack, curse the vehicle, and terrorize some toddlers if it hadn't been for the TV show?

If you had any doubt about it, all doubt was erased in a more recent episode, in which the family experienced an ice storm that broke the limbs off several trees on their property. One huge limb demolished the family's outdoor storage shed, and another knocked out the power lines to the house, leaving the Duggars without electricity for days.

The camera crew dutifully followed Jim Bob around as he surveyed the damage. Just then, Jim Bob said something that explained everything about his previous calm reaction to the RV breakdown:

"Right now, the kids are watching how I react to this."

Amazing.

To be in that very moment, responding in real time, and to say such a thing.

Every one of us could say that in retrospect, but not many of us could say it in the moment.

We all regret tempers lost and careless words, but not many of us avoid the need for regret.

Thanks, Jim Bob.

Your words made me squirm, but I needed it.