Memories are the things that help guide us through the most turbulent storms in our lives. Sometimes we use those memories to execute the desired changes that we wish to see in our future. Other times, we are reminded of the traumas that forced us to either change our behavior or withdraw altogether. When I think of the last few years, one of the memories that comes to mind is that of my father.
My dad was a gentle soul with a powerful presence. He had the ability to make others feel good about themselves and he didn’t even have to say much to make them feel that way. He could diffuse a situation from getting out of control because he had the skills to navigate others behaviors. In many ways, dad set the tone for what I want to be able to achieve in my own life.
Both my parents were overachievers. It was hard to even try to live up to their reputations so I didn’t. I found excuses to fail at many things. I just didn’t want to be compared and even though I was my own worst enemy, it was easier to blame others for my own faults. I guess you could say that reality was a pill I really didn’t want to have to swallow.
Dad used to tell me the stories of when he was younger. He used to work in a soda shop and he learned about pharmacies during this time because back then, people could get the pills they needed in just a few pills. There wasn’t really this big bottle packaging that we have now. When Dad graduated, he told me that part of him really didn’t want to go to Seminary but for him he knew that it was something that would keep him out of trouble. He had grown up with his family working in moonshine on the side and he only made one run with moonshine. He later told me that was one run too many. He didn’t want to go to work in the furniture industry because he didn’t have talent for it. His father was a master woodworker. That talent skipped my dad. It was not difficult to ascertain dad’s apprehension. It was all my father could do to try to drive a nail in straight with a hammer. Woodworking may have been in his bloodlines but his genes just never inherited that skill.
As Dad went to seminary, he had a lot of lessons to learn. He became familiar with Greek studies. Dad was fascinated with other cultures and beliefs. He loved history and craved it. Every chance he got he studied world history, ancient history and even modern history. For my father, every day was another chapter in the history books. He came through for so many different individuals. When my father met my mom, he had to do a year of residency in California. That was the hardest year on their marriage. Mom has often said it was the first year and the most trying because they chose to live off one income. The squirreled away the other. When they got to the parsonage, it was lacking so many things. Pots and pans were one of them. My mom asked her mother to send those pots and pans. Grandma complied and once they acquired those, my parents embarked on their adventure together. My mom worked for the American Red Cross at the time. When they left California, they grew together in their goals. I came along three years later.
When I was about one, my parents moved to Carthage, NC. I don’t remember much about that time because we moved when I was six. What I do remember is that times were often simple for me because I grew up in a neighborhood where there was a country store right down the street, everyone knew everyone. You never had to lock your door and there was this tree out front that my friend Tripp and I would climb every day and swing from like there was no tomorrow. Tripp and I would go to that store down the street and buy Bazooka Joe gum. It was only a few cents. I think these memories are important to me because it reminds me of a quieter time in my life where there were very few expectations and I was shown love those first few years from my teachers, neighbors and friends.
So why bring all of this up? It helps me to understand why my love of working with people is complex. My first real confrontation happened in the first grade with the teacher. This was back in 1976 and my teacher was living with a man, prejudiced, opinionated, and downright mean. There were some black kids in my class that I loved to play with. The woman was a holy terror. In today’s world, she would have been fired for her actions. She ridiculed me, made me wet my pants and literally made me feel as if I was worthless. Growing up, I was always an advocate for the underdog. In fact, it was one of the things that made me grateful. I learned to lie real quick. I didn’t understand why lying was wrong until a lot later. See some people think that you can stop lying easily. They don’t understand that it’s a disease. My mom never really lied. She always stretched the truth enough that it wasn’t a lie but I didn’t understand the difference until I got older. Lying hurts all parties involved. The truth may not always be comfortable but it’s the truth.
It doesn’t help when you surround yourself with those who can’t be honest either. Then you have that one friend that you know is honest but instead of making you feel that you are making progress, they make you feel inferior. Let’s face it. Kids can be really cruel. Bullying has become rampant in all aspects of our lives. We may not have to like being bullied but we don’t have to allow the bullying to dominate us. There’s been a barrage of things in my life that have made me realize that my early past set the tone for things I do to this day. I don’t condone bullying because I’ve been privy to it. I don’t condone liars but I understand that it is a disease. Getting things jumbled up in a person’s head does not mean they are a liar. It just means that they may have difficulty relaying things the way everything happened. No one should assume what a person deals with. We all have our masks that we wear. We all have stories of traumas and issues that we’ve had to contend with. Try to remember that none of us are perfect. What truly matters in this world is that we own our issues. We try our best to rectify them when we are aware of them. Granted, not everyone does but there are so many people in this world dealing with demons that you can’t see. Don’t be part of the problem. Be a helping hand and guiding force. Reserve judgment. The bottom line is that when people have been broken, it’s admirable that they are trying to get their footing again.
I’ve heard the comments over the years about preachers kids and cops kids. It’s not good to label kids based off what their parents do for a living. There’s a reputation that kids get stuck with and the world is screaming at all of us not to label and yet this is part of labeling. My memories make me grateful that I remember all kinds of people that I’ve encountered. I’ve witnessed good and bad behavior. The biggest thing I’m grateful for is the support from those in my life that have been there with me through thick and thin. Don’t take anything for granted. Respect yourself enough to see that you are worth good things in this life. Use the memories that you have in your own past to teach you about the kind of person you want to be. Memories are precious. They teach us about our mistakes and our successes. Thankfully no one can take away the memories. The bad ones give us strength we never knew we had and the good ones teach us about the better things life has to offer.