America is in a crisis. There are no heroes anymore and the country does not seem to look for them. We seem to care more about what Britney Spears or Paris Hilton is doing than in what seems to motivate and inspire people. Athletes have earned this level of respect in this country; only to find themselves doing something objectionable and a scandal soon erupts. We used to find heroes in our everyday lives.
However, crime has risen exponentially from fifty years ago and with 40% of children today being born without a constant father figure in the home, the men who have the opportunity to be heroes bypass that joy and responsibility in favor of irresponsible behavior as it seems to be the vogue these past few years in our families. Minorities suffer rates almost twice that rate and there is a major shortage of familiar heroes in this country. This profile is about a man who did not follow the trends and what was popular. As a result, my sister and I had a great childhood experience and benefit from such efforts every day of our lives.
My father by no means is perfect. One year, he and I went on vacation all over the country. The trip was designed to last fourteen days but after the tenth day, we decided that we might kill each other if the day was extended one more day. Ten hours in a car every day does no relationship well. This was when I was a teenager and I remembered what Mark Twain said when commenting about his father. In a paraphrase, Twain said that he left home at the age of eighteen, convinced that his parents were morons, only to return at the age of twenty one, amazed at how much wisdom they had gained in three short years.
The point of the story is that it was Twain and not his parents, who gained the wisdom and what seems like confusing and oppressive actions, is now seen in a different light. This came to fruition in my own life. Even though I was never a rebellious child, I butted heads with my father, only to realize as I got older, that if I turned out to be half the man my father was, I’d already be ahead of 99% of the general population. My father was and still is a 6th grade science teacher. He began in 1972 and for the first twenty years, made almost no money.
As a result, he did two things which just doesn’t happen anymore: He got a second job as a house painter during the summers and weekends, and he postponed starting a family with my mother, his wife, until a number of years later when he had a little bit of money and a stable marriage. As a result, all of my needs and a few of my wants were met while I was a child. We were never rich but we had the advantages of good and responsible choices that at that time, was starting to become more and rarer within the American family. Even though we were not poor, my father taught me the value of a dollar.
This is also a valuable lesson that seems to be lacking in today’s society. In November of this year, there were more than 225,000 foreclosures as the majority of these cases, were from people who bought more house than they could afford and predatory lenders were all too happy to lend them the money. By the time I was a teenager, my parents were making much better money. However, my father would spend his weekends working on the family cars in order to save $100 so that it could be used on the family. My father drove for eighteen years, a 1979 blue Chevy Impala Station Wagon that he bought from an ad in the newspaper.
It is guarantee that the price that they both settled upon was lower than the original asking price. It looked awful and was out of style to be sure. My father continued to drive this car while my mother always received the better car and when it was time for me to being driving, I was able to receive a very modest car which was even better than my fathers. It was not a fancy car at $2200 but it lasted me a number of years as I took care of it. My father is also a hard worker and it was this that I saw every day, that propels me to work hard today.
My father was what people today call “old school. He never took a day off of work, never gave excuses and never was lazy. He disciplined himself during the summer when he could simply sit and watch television all day. He did not and also put my sister and me to work when he was home. One day, while painting a house, my father slipped off the ladder that he was on and fell into an air conditioning unit. He bruised his ribs and had pieces of skin ripped from his abdomen. My father did not sue the homeowner or file for workman’s compensation. He simply took an hour off and then went back to work. My father is not a physically tough man.
He did not play sports in high school and is more if an introvert than an extrovert to say the last. He possesses mental toughness which leaves with age much later than physical toughness. My father wore the same ten outfits for more than fifteen years. Since he took extreme care with everything that he owned, the clothes were always in perfect condition but were just terribly out of style. The reason for this was to help show me the value of “making things last” as he would always say and that “a place for everything, everything in its place. ” I will hear such words in my head until I die.
My father was a modern day Benjamin Franklin. He should have been as he would recite his sayings all the time. “A penny saved is a penny earned” would be the response when cleaning my room, I would actually throw the pennies away in the garbage as I believed them to be worthless. ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” when I wanted to sleep in and not go to school or “Plough deep while sluggards sleep and you shall have corn to sell and to keep” when I complained that I should not spend any percentage of my weekend or summer months, working as none of my other friends were doing the same.
How does all of this apply to me? The researchers tell us that most behavior is learned. Therefore, one who sees the same actions every day during their childhood, are then tempted to repeat those behaviors when they grow up. For an increasing number of people, that serves as an impediment to their growth and success. They have no parents at home to teach them and to guide them and the familial income is thus cut in half and exponentially increases the number of problems that can possibly emerge. One example can help to sum up my experiences with my father.
It is an example that many people would either see as timid or silly. But it is one that I have used to my advantage. One night, my family went out to eat. When it was my time to order, I could not make up my mind between a cheeseburger and pasta. I went back and forth until my father prompted me to make a decision. I agreed to the pasta. When my order came and I saw that the waitress had mistakenly given me the cheeseburger, I started to speak up in order to tell her the mistake. My father gave me a frown and a quick shake of the head in order to tell me in no uncertain terms, that I was not to complain.
This lesson stuck with me. It might not have been the lesson that my father intended to give to me but it was one that I carried with me to this day. America is becoming a blameless society. Nothing that anyone ever does is their fault anymore. People are suing fast food restaurants and tobacco companies because they ignored or could not consent to avoid, the highly documented adverse affects of each of the aforementioned products. Individuals, who commit crimes, blame temporary insanity or the fact of a bad home life as the reason for their actions.
Many car insurance cards state that one is not to admit fault but to simply call the police and to keep your mouth shut, regardless of the degree of fault. Millions and millions of men this year will unintentionally get their girlfriends pregnant and will flee the relationship once it becomes obvious that they will be having the child. Having the cheeseburger did not serve as a sacrifice for me. I contributed greatly to the confusion of the waitress as a ten year old kid who was not sure what he wanted and not fully aware of the time and money that I was taking away from the waitress.
I was only thinking about myself and did not take the time to first decide what I wanted before it was time. There was no planning, no desire to take responsibility for my actions as I was only thinking about what I wanted. I was ten so the incident is minor. That is, such actions which do not become a habit. My father taught me to take responsibility for my actions and that the majority of the time, the problems that I had were caused by an error in judgment or in laziness. That was not to say that my father let me sink or swim every time in order for me to learn.
More times than not, he came to my rescue but always with a lecture as he did not want it to become a habit for me to always rely upon others to fix my messes. I thought that such actions were cruel at the time, only to realize that I would have wanted it no other way. There is the temptation for a parent to always come to the rescue of the child, no matter how old he or she is and how severe of an indiscretion in the mistake. This only serves to cripple the individual and to make him or expect the same to occur when they become an adult and go out into the real world.
A life is only important if it positively affects others. There might be a hundred famous and wise people who have made such comments. What is more famous, as the number of people who proclaim such words are those who actually take the effort and forethought to see it through is few and far between? My father, although far from perfect, was a man who did not follow the trends of giving his children everything that he asked, encouraged their selfish behaviors and attitudes, allowed them to blame others for their own mistakes, to be lazy and to run away from one’s responsibility.
I have benefited from the aforementioned lessons in a great way. I am thankful for my father’s stubbornness in his pursuit to teach me such lessons in the face of growing resentment and resistance. They serve as checks of self respect, motivation and self determination; checks that I cash every day. I thank my father for liberally depositing into my account, the necessary funds to cover these various transactions.