As we journey through life, we meet people who impact our lives. They may stay for five minutes, five years or a lifetime. But while they are within our circle, we learn from them, which is all part of our growth.
Well, that’s the way I see it. Many people have come into my life over the last 70 years. Some stayed only a short moment but left an indelible mark, and each time, be it good or bad, I learned and grew.
But the one who had the most impact was my father (as is often the case). And right up to the day he died, just before his 96th birthday, he was teaching me.
Looking back over the many things he taught me, two stand out.
“Never judge anyone” was probably the main one I grew up with. Everyone is on their own path and has reasons for doing what they do. Sometimes they may not even know the ‘why’, but until you walk in their shoes (which you never can), don’t assume you know and don’t judge their actions or words. There are always two sides to everything (perhaps that was the lawyer in him talking), but he was correct; there is always another side or way of looking at something.
The other advice he would give (often) was to be open to new ideas and constructive criticism and not be frightened or ashamed to change your mind if new evidence shows a better way, a different outcome or a new approach.
A great example of this was in 2007, during the last days of his beautiful life.
He had checked himself into a rest home, and all his grandchildren, most scattered around the world, emailed him constantly. He would receive anywhere from two to six emails daily, and even the office lady would come in on Saturday and Sunday to print them off so dad wouldn’t miss a day.
My daughter, living in the USA, asked me one day what she should write about as she felt she was out of things to put in the emails. I suggested she write about the politics and what was happening in the States (remember Bush and Iraq?). I told her grandpa would be interested to hear her view.
A few days later, I went to visit him. He was waking up, and as he did, he indicated some papers on the bed tray he wanted me to read. Immediately I saw it was from my daughter and began to read.
Now, my father was a supporter of Bush. He believed in the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and the Iraq invasion.
So, I think you can imagine my surprise when I read that my daughter was arguing for the impeachment of Bush, saying that what he’d done was illegal.
The more I read, the more I wondered about my father’s reaction. I put down the email and looked at him. By now he was sitting up, his eyes were bright, and he had a gentle smile on his face. I will never forget the words he spoke.
“She’s right,” he said. “What Bush did was illegal, and I hadn’t seen it that way.” “Your daughter has convinced me by outlining the facts. She has made a good case.”
He went on to say that he doubted Bush would be impeached, but what a legal battle that would be. But at that moment, I saw a man at the end of his life have the courage to change his mind, and that was an incredibly powerful lesson.
I hope to maintain the morals and attitudes my father taught me. They’ve certainly held me in good stead up to now. Long may his words and actions remain in me.
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