This week I had the incredible opportunity to speak at an event honoring my dad as he transitions into a new chapter of his life. When trying to think about what to share, I decided to go with “6 Things My Dad Taught Me That Impacted Me Forever”. There’s a lot more than six and there were some other personal things I shared at the event, but I wanted to share these six with you.
I want to share them with you not only to honor my dad (I have been and continue to be a recipient of his hard work and faithfulness), but also as a gut check for all of us. I’m more focused than I’ve ever been on being a great dad and reviewing a few of the ways my dad impacted me has lit a new fire in me to make sure I’m focusing just where I should be as a parent.
So here are the 6 things he instilled in me…
1. My dad taught me to work hard.
Many people work. Few people work hard. Dad taught me the value of working hard. I have seen many who did not have this example. So dad: thank you for modeling this for me.
2. My dad taught me to work hard without complaining.
So if few work hard, then even fewer work hard without complaining. I can’t recall a time where I ever heard my dad gripe or complain about working hard. He went to work. He came home. He repeated. Over and over again, for years, without complaints.
3. My dad taught me that work doesn’t end when you arrive home.
He worked hard away from us. And he worked hard when he returned to us. He tackled everything from wood rot, to old cars, to yard upkeep to updating and teaching us how to use our first computer, a Commodore 64 (where we spent hours typing in code only to get a little ball to bounce across the screen), to painting the house and paying bills. He worked hard as a professional and worked even harder to be an incredible dad and teacher at home.
4. My dad taught me the value of family.
More important to him than our house was his family. Amongst the busyness of life, he never made us feel like he was too busy. He wrestled with me (until I broke his ankle). He taught me to play tennis, and I still remember the first time I beat him (it was after I had broke his ankle). He helped me with my math homework (even though it didn’t keep me from failing Geometry repeatedly). He was present at basketball and baseball games. He played catch and shagged balls. He golfed with me (until I hit him in the head with a club and he had to get stitches above his eye). He hung out in the pool. He watched sports and movies. He gave my sister and I his time.
*And if I could add a personal note here. Many of you are probably not aware of this, but as young teenager my parents went through a divorce. It’s not something I talk about publicly often, but I have a new awareness and gratitude for how my parents worked through their own pain and prioritized us kids in the middle of all that. In other words, they just continued to show up even in the midst of their own personal pain. We were never used as pawns in a game to get one kid to love one parent more than the other, we were just viewed as kids who needed both parents equally. And if you’ve ever been through a divorce you know that’s a lot easier said than done. It take s tremendous amount of emotional maturity!!
5. My dad taught me the value of people.
I cannot think of a single time in my life that I ever saw my dad treat another human being with any sort of preferential treatment. He is the most fair man I know. He treated everyone we ever came across with genuine respect and kindness. Not just those who could do something for him or make him look good- I’m talking…everyone. And that value has stayed with me. Whether it was someone he went to church with, an annoying neighbor, a troubled student, a high maintenance co-worker, a troubled couple in need of guidance- they all knew what to expect from dad. They were going to be treated with care and love. Even when it was difficult. And it was often difficult.
6. My dad taught me to always do the right thing.
My dad taught me, and probably hundreds of others, that regardless of your religious beliefs, or regardless of whether you have a high regard of scripture or not, that there was something deep inside of each one of us that knows there are some things that are just right and some things that are just wrong.
And that if we’ll really listen in those moments, we’ll most often know the difference. And if we do the wrong thing, which we all do from time to time (actually more often than I’d like to admit), it would be ok, not only because of God’s grace, but because we’d soon face another situation where we once again would have the choice to do the right thing. I watched my dad literally hundreds of times come to that intersection in his life, and with amazing consistency, no matter how difficult it might have been, he chose “to do the right thing”. Those selfless decisions impacted me but also everyone else that ever came in contact with him.
So often in life, we wait until someone is gone to tell them things like this. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to publicly tell me dad what he means to me and to so many others.