My sister (back) and I (front), next to our Chevy Blazer, late 70’s.
As I was watching some kids pile in the back seat of a car the other day, I realized something. Kids have to sit in the back seat of a car until they are practically teenagers, these days, because of airbag laws. This wasn’t the case when I was growing up. I could sit in the front seat—especially when I rode with my dad.
My dad has always owned a pickup truck. So when we went somewhere together, I had no choice, I had to ride in the front, since there was only one seat. As a boy, I loved to climb up into his high pickup truck and take my place next to him on the bench. My feat would dangle from the seat, unable to touch the muddy floorboards of the truck. I would stick my right arm out of the window or I would mess with the window vent in the corner, aiming the draft just right on summer days. I’d place my hand on the stick shift and feel it rumble. My dad was just twelve inches away from me.
Do you have any idea what it does for a young boy to have him sit in the front, alongside of dad? I do. It makes a huge statement. Come be next to a man. Look and see how I do things. Watch me shift, drink my coffee from a ceramic cup, and maneuver down winding roads. Be my copilot. Let’s go get some car parts from the junkyard. We’ll throw them in the back of the truck. Then we’ll get back up front. And ride. Together.
Maybe we’ll get a donut. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll talk. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll find what we need. Maybe we’ll have to make another trip. Together.
I’m calling this “The Pickup Truck Principle.” It’s how the older generation engages with the younger generation. Bring them up front with you, alongside of you, and let them see what you do. Let them see how you steer through life. Make them your copilot. Treat them like men and women.
Here’s how the apostle Paul puts it, when writing to his young friend Timothy:
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
Timothy followed Paul’s life. He had a front row seat, you could say. Paul brought Timothy alongside of him, so that Timothy could hear his teaching, observe his conduct, understand his aim in life, watch for his faith, feel his patience, receive his love, witness his steadfastness, and have a direct view of his persecutions and sufferings. Paul didn’t hide these things from Timothy. He allowed Timothy to sit next to him, to see how he maneuvered down these roads of life.
The Pickup Truck Principle means that we don’t just teach our kids our lessons, but we make them a part of our lives. Let them see how we handle life, especially the lessons that we’re not prepared for. This is how we help them to grow to be men and women, not by sheltering them, but by sharing our lives with them, letting them see how we’re going to handle it.
I just got off the phone with my dad, who was sharing some concerns he had about his health. Before we hung up, he told me, “Thanks for letting me voice my concerns.”
Thanks, dad, for inviting me up in the seat next to you again.
Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.