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5 Lessons from My Dad

In the following series of blogs, I’ll tell some of my family stories. What’s my purpose? To strike a chord with you with the thought, the hope, that you’ll remember your family stories. Better still, my hope is that you’ll tell your family stories to your children, your grandchildren, and even your great-grandchildren. It’s our stories that bind us together as family.

My dad wasn’t a great guy, no matter how many ways you slice the apple. He drank a lot. He was gone a lot—to the tavern. He was harsh, particularly when he lacked the effects of a few beers. He was no model of affection as a parent or as a husband.

As I look at some of that painful past, there’s no doubt that it would be easier to ignore it instead of embracing it. But every past has lessons that are worthy of unearthing. Here are lessons my dad taught me:

  1. Work hard. I remember this lesson well. We were building some kind of structure to keep our hogs in, and a particularly lackadaisical effort brought down his anger. “If you’re going to do a job, do it right!” Those words still ring with me today.
  2. Take care of the kids. Despite our impoverished state, my dad wanted my mother to stay at home with the kids. Somehow it never really crossed his mind that she could work and relieve some of the financial burden. It was worth it for her to stay at home. I benefited from that lesson in so many ways.
  3. Tend the garden. When we were growing up, we always had a garden out of necessity. But even though he never said, I suspect my dad liked watching things grow. There’s something magical about preparing the ground, sowing seeds, cultivating, and harvesting. We still have a garden today.
  4. Tell stories. I never remember my dad sitting down with the family and telling us his stories. But he took us to the tavern, and we watched him tell stories there. I know it’s kind of strange, but it’s still an image in my mind of people gathered around him, listening and laughing—to a good story.
  5. Give gifts. My dad died a week before Christmas. As Christmas day approached, the pickings looked pretty slim except for two particularly large boxes. They were 2 bicycles—one for me and one for my brother. My mom told me that dad wanted his boys to have bicycles. They were a great gift, and softened the blow of loss.

What are your lessons?

Related articles:
The Haircutter’s Legacy
Write a Letter to Your 80-Year-Old Self
The Seven Generation Legacy – Can It Be Yours?

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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