A couple of weeks ago I shared a story titled “You’ve Never Seen A Hearse With A Trailer Hitch For A Reason”, a little tale regarding what I learned about Horizon Goodwill’s favorite musician Kristian Bush. In the article I mentioned how my late father had a love for all types of music, specifically country, which, as a teen growing up in Western Pennsylvania would embarrass me to no end. This was in the 1980’s, when Def Leppard was taking the world by storm, Bon Jovi was slated to become the next big thing and everyone, at least in my high school, wanted to rock with Twisted Sister and bang their head alongside Quiet Riot. Yes, without a doubt, my dad was so uncool as he played The Statler Brothers and Marty Robbins at maximum volume driving through town. But now, looking back as a father myself, I realize not only was my father the coolest man in my universe, unbeknownst to me, he taught me life lessons that have made me the person I am today. Do you mind joining me as I share some of his wisdom?
Life Lesson #1—The Importance Of Meaningful Work
Like any other boy growing up, I was not a big fan of performing chores, but that all changed when I actually got paid to mow a neighbor’s lawn. “Dad, Mary Kay actually gave me money for cutting her grass!” I’ll never forget his smile, or his response to this incredible revelation. “John, that’s how life works. You do a good job and you’ll get paid for your efforts. If someone hires you to perform a service, they deserve your best effort. Never, and I mean ever, give them anything less than your absolute best.” I learned the value of a good work ethic—at the ripe old age of 12.
Life Lesson #2—When Possible, Always Help Others
Flash forward to when I was 16, a full-grown man (at least in my mind!) My dad was the president of a social organization that held several fundraisers year round, with all proceeds going to various philanthropies in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. The largest event was the July 4th Bar-B-Q, which, as I found out years later, generated the bulk of the funding that the club used to donate to charity. Imagine how I felt when I realized my holiday plans of loitering with my friends, flirting with girls and listening to Heavy Metal was not going to happen because I was needed to flip large crates of chicken over flames on perhaps the hottest day of the year! I tried to protest, but all my father had to do was look at me with his sky blue eyes and I knew how important it was to him that I take part.
I explained to Bobby, Didley, Woody and the rest of the guys that I would have to meet up with them after the coals smoldered at the end of the day. When pressed for more details, I shared what my father taught me about the importance of helping others. Just simply conveying my dad’s wisdom, through my own words, had an impact on my friends. Each one of them decided to join me, flipping those cast iron grids in the blazing heat, spraying butter on chickens and helping sell tickets. I could tell how proud my father was of not only me, but the young men I called my friends.
Life Lesson #3—Everyone Deserves A Second Chance
There’s a story I’m not really proud of, but I’ve decided to share it. I was 19 and enjoying my freshman year at college—perhaps enjoying it a bit too much. Heading back to the dorm with four of my friends, we thought it would be fun to physically move a motorcycle from one area of the parking lot to another. Dumb idea, of course, made dumber as it was Halloween and we were all dressed up like the members of Kiss; all of us having had a lot of beer in our systems. Anyway, as we were lugging this Yamaha through the parking lot, well…we got arrested.
The initial charges were underage drinking and grand theft auto. Of course the police realized it was a harmless prank, but we all did receive citations for being intoxicated, losing our driving privileges for six months. I was so disappointed in myself, and immediately called my father, who at 3:00 in the morning must have thought something terrible happened.
He listened to my story, and, amazingly, didn’t judge me. He asked if I learned anything about my actions, and I explained I certainly did, however it didn’t really hit me until a few days later. Grand theft auto? That could have stayed on my record for life! I remember my dad and I were laughing about this a few years before he died. He reminded me again that everyone deserves a second chance, and I should never lose site of the fact that people do make mistakes, but they don’t deserve to pay for them the rest of their lives.
Life Lesson #4—Pride Is The Most Important Byproduct Of Gainful Employment
It was 1999 and at that time I was already working in the movie theater industry for eight years. At this point I was involved in the creation of a new megaplex company with locations in four states. We were having our Grand Opening event at our newest 22 screen location in suburban Pittsburgh. There were some very big movers and shakers in attendance; state Senators and Congressmen, city officials, Dr. Cyril Wecht and right there amongst them was my dad.
He took me aside and told me how proud he was of me for being an integral part of such a large undertaking. The feeling that look in his eyes stirred in me I don’t think will ever be replicated. I wanted to tell him where I was in life, everything I had accomplished up to that point, was a direct result of the lessons he taught me since I was stumbling around in diapers—but I didn’t. Being 29, I didn’t quite know how to articulate how important he was to me, but I did know everything he was saying was spot on. I was proud of my career, and where it was taking me.
My father passed on July 18th, 2012 from cancer. It stinks, because no one was aware he was sick, not even him, until just three weeks prior to his death. Luckily, for some reason, I decided to drive out to Ohio for a few days in June of that year, Father’s Day weekend to be exact. My mom and dad retired there about ten years earlier, and I didn’t get to see them as much as I wished I could. At this point I was a father and husband myself, busy with work, family and my “hobby” of writing. We talked, laughed and just hung out. He told me during that visit how proud he was of me and the man I had become. At the time, his words felt good, but not as good as they feel right now as I’m remembering them.
I know everyone reading this may not have grown up with a father in their daily lives, but you know what? It’s not about the paternal role, it’s about people who care about you; special relationships where you realize your best interests are being looked after. Maybe it’s your mom, an uncle, a sibling, a teacher, a mentor. All of us have someone in our lives that we can look to and realize they played a crucial part in making us who we’ve become.
Did you think I was going to suggest visiting your local Horizon Goodwill store to purchase a gift for your dad this Father’s Day? You’re certainly welcome to, it’s not a bad idea at all, but I’m not. If you thought I was going to recommend you help your old man clean out the garage this month and donate all those items to Goodwill…again, that’s not the point of this blog, but don’t let me stop you from doing so.
No, the point here is to call that special person, or, better yet, go and visit him or her this Father’s Day. Let them know how influential they have been. Tell them you love them, even if for some reason the two of you aren’t as close as you used to be. Remember, everyone deserves a second chance.