Since today is Father’s Day, I feel compelled to talk a little about my wonderful dad and share three lessons learned from dad that I know are great lessons for just about everyone.
1. Be generous, but don’t be showy about it.
We came from modest means. Okay, we lived on a super-tight budget where there was little to no room for the extras that all my friends’ families seemed to be able to afford. No fancy vacations … no restaurant dinners … no yearly birthday parties … no weekly allowances. It was a life where you expected to wear hand-me-downs and a real treat was splitting half a bottle of Pepsi with a sibling on Sunday night while watching The Wonderful World of Disney on a fuzzy old black and white tv.
As children, we understood that things were tight and that we needed to make do with what we had. Yet, Dad always found a way to help those who were less fortunate or who were going through a tough time. He gave from what he had, but he never made a fuss about it. Dad considered the act of giving to be what you did in private. He didn’t do it for accolades or others’ appreciation… he did it because it was the right thing to do.
2. Education is important – always be learning!
I thought we were poor when I was growing up, but we were living the good life compared to what my father’s family had when he was growing up (which was still a lot more than what dad’s parents grew up with!).
Dad was the seventh of eight children born to Polish immigrants who knew the meaning of working from dawn to nightfall and then some. Times being what they were, Dad had to drop out of high school to work. He always lamented not being able to get a better education (actually – he did go back to get his GED when he was in his mid-50s – way to go Dad!).
Dad understood that education could pave the path to a better life and he preached that belief from the time each of his own seven children were mere tiny tots. Dad was right – education has made a difference in my life and in the lives of my siblings. It’s given us an advantage that our Dad didn’t have. Beyond that, just like Dad, we keep learning and that continues to enrich our lives in so many ways.
3. Life comes with an expiration date.
My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April of 1991 and six weeks later he took his last breath. The quality of his life in those brief six weeks was extremely poor.
Dad worked hard in manual labor jobs his entire life. He was eagerly anticipating the day when he would turn 65 … because that was the day he could retire and finally start living life his way. My dad died three weeks before his 65th birthday.
I know in the grand scheme of things, he is in a better place and is receiving the rewards for his hard-lived life. Still, the haunting lesson that I take from my dad’s early passing is that no day is promised; never put off doing what you really want to do. Life must be lived fully as it comes to you – one day at a time.
Dad, thanks so much for these lessons I learned from you (and all the ones I haven’t mentioned here, too)
Dad thanks for these and all the many, many lessons you taught me. Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a wonderful Father’s Day!
I pray that today we’ll all appreciate the many lessons our fathers teach us and learn from that final lesson my dad taught me: Never put off living your life until someday in the future … live it fully today and every day!