Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ten Things I learned from my Dad

Dad, you have taught me innumerable things over the last 56 years. So much of what I am I owe to who you are. Thank you for taking the time to teach me out of the trove of wisdom that God allowed you to amass over the years. Thank you for being an excellent model of a Godly man and the kind of father whose character paved the way for my relationship with our Heavenly Father. I admire and respect you, Dad, and I love you so much.

I love you anyway.  My parents have been married for over 60 years and are as happy as any two people I've ever seen. They have been through happy times, hard times, crazy times, sad times. They are very different and don’t always agree. No matter how difficult the disagreement, however, they always end it with “I love you anyway. “ And they mean it.

If you gotta land the plane, you can’t always wait for a runway. One of Dad’s stories involved an incident that occurred when his father was flying solo across Texas and had an emergency. He landed in a cattle corral. The point is, everything doesn't go perfectly every time-so, don’t expect it to. Be prepared to change plans on the fly-so to speak. Be looking for a place to land, even while the propeller is still turning.

Treat everyone with respect, even if they are wearing overalls with no shirt. My parents lived in the country. One day when I was home, a scruffy looking man came to the door and asked to see my dad.  I said, ‘Certainly, I will go get him,” and closed the door. That day, I learned that you invite callers into the house; you don’t leave them standing on the porch. The real lesson, of course, was that you don’t judge folks by their appearance and you treat everyone with respect, even if they are different.

Make sure the cinch is tight before you ride. I had a pony that was very crafty. Horses aren’t smart, but they can still be Machiavellian. That pony would puff up when you put the saddle on so that by the time you mounted, the cinch was loose. You’d end up on the dirt with the saddle under his belly. This was a good lesson in not making assumptions. Put everything in order before you begin and then go back and check it to make sure. Also, never trust a lazy pony.

If you create the problem you are responsible to fix it. At 16, I bought a beater car from my brother-who had bought it from our older brother. Then I ran it into the back of another vehicle parked on the street. Of course, the car was not worth repairing, but it was important to me. So, my dad let me get a part time job and pay for the repairs. I’m here to tell you, I was very careful with that car after that. I learned a lot about getting a job, working, saving and being responsible for my actions. And no, Dad, I was not putting on lipstick when I hit the parked car, I was just a ditz.

Risk not thy whole wad. My dad is, among other things, a talented Realtor with an eye for property. During a period of frenetic real estate mania in Texas, my dad was able to parlay a great deal on one piece of property into great deals on a bunch of properties. Being a lover of land, my dad went all in. Then the market crashed and the all that was in was lost. Dad was always willing to talk about how he would handle it differently. He humbly and generously allowed us all to learn from his experience. I learned not only to “not risk my whole wad,” but also, to be honest and ingenuous about the bad as well as the good.

If you want the cow in the chute, you have to get her attention first Dad is a gentle man as well as a gentleman. He also knows how to get things done. When some of his hands were unable to get a ‘high-headed cow’ into the chute to trailer her to a sale, they called Dad. He drove to the site, got out of the truck, grabbed his ax handle behind the seat, strode over and climbed the fence. He walked up to the cow and, like Babe Ruth after he called his home run, hauled off and whacked that cow between the eyes. She stepped back, shook her huge hairy head, and trotted up the chute and into the trailer. Dad, climbed up over the fence, got back in the truck and drove away without saying anything to the three hands standing there. All the arguing in the world is not going to work if you don’t have their attention first. You probably don’t want to use an ax handle, though.

Enjoy today. Today is a gift, enjoy it and be thankful. Don’t spend all your todays in anticipation of a tomorrow which may never come.  Don’t be foolish; you must plan for tomorrow, but don’t let your planning absorb you so that today slips away unnoticed. Invest more in your relationships than you do in your retirement.

Listening is the most important part of conversation.  ‘nough said.

How would Jesus handle this situation?  There are three situations in which this is the most important consideration you can make. First, when things are as bad as they can be, and decisions are being made that will impact not only the rest of your life, but also the lives of everyone you care about. Secondly, when life is good and you are idling along making little every day decisions that no one else might ever know about. Thirdly, every situation in between. That is the way my dad lives his life and that is the way I want to live mine.