We live in a world of false heroes where we exalt the famous for being, well, famous. Actors, singers, politicians or athletes should not be emulated for their fame alone. Instead we should revere people not because of who they but because of what they are. Fathers, such as my dad, are some of the true heroes.
I believe that real heroes are people who, regardless of circumstances, comport themselves in principled and value driven ways. Their greatness comes not from a great jump shot or a beautiful voice but because they manage their lives effectively, make good choices and add value to society and those around them.
My father has always been there for me. I learned a lot from my father- how to ride a bike, catch a ball and give back to others. My appreciation of the outdoors and nature is no doubt largely born of traveling and camping as a family across country for weeks at a time. He taught me how to fish only to see me become a vegan – I guess he was not good at everything!
My dad instilled in me the love of family and learning, not by the power of his words, but by the passion of his actions. He taught me how to live and be a thoughtful, giving and kind person.
A few of Dad’s seminal lessons were:
- Never steal. In the first grade I decided to “borrow” some things from school. My father found out about my sticky fingers and pretended to call the police to notify them of my transgressions. I never took what was not mine again.
- Always act like a gentleman. My father implored me to disagree without being disagreeable. I was taught to behave like a gentleman, not because the other person was, but because I was, and endeavor to hold myself to a higher standard.
- There are no entitlements. My father was raised in a humble Brownsville apartment. Today we would call it poor. Yet my father never sought a handout from the government or anyone else. Never wealthy, my father built a decidedly middle-class life through hard work and self-reliance.
- Believe in others. The supreme gift my father provided me was the gift of belief. He always had confidence in his children’s abilities. This translated into self-assurance and optimism. The gift of belief is something I try to share with others each and every day.
- Lead by example. People look at what you do and not what you say. My father walks his talk. At work, getting things accomplished is a definitive way to acquire followers.
- Face your challenges with equanimity. Everyone has challenges and my dad’s latest is Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed several years ago he approaches life with the same zeal and enthusiasm he always has.
Viktor Frankl a Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search For Meaning”, reflecting on his time in the concentration camps said “everything can be taken from a man but . . . the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Thus, we are not products of our circumstances but rather of our choices. Perhaps that is his greatest lesson.
My father was never a rich man, yet by living in accord with his values, he is the wealthiest man I know. He garnered the respect of his peers and the love and admiration of his children. So to all the fathers out there who are quiet heroes thanks. Happy Fathers Day!