Things Your Father Wants You To Know #2 ~ Serve Your Country

In the news lately has been the story of an extraordinary coach at a little college in New York, Maritime in the Bronx. Clayton Kendrick-Holmes’ players wear principles on their jerseys instead of names; “family”, “respect”, “honesty”, etc. And he has led his unknown team to a potential championship. He learned, in July, that he was being called up by the Navy (he is a reservist) to serve in Afghanistan. He doesn’t think of himself as extraordinary and he did not question his deployment, it is what he signed up for.

Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. It is clear that you are not likely to be a soldier, you are not a fighter, like your mother you are an arguer, a word person. But freedom has, historically, required soldiers. I served, your grandfathers served, Ruben and Big Mike served. That requires respect.

Not all policemen are honest, not all firemen are brave. But those who serve in these direct ways deserve the ultimate respect. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. Not all service demands such great sacrifice. But most service demands some sacrifice, of time, of money, of self.

But there are many ways of soldiering. All over America kids are earning college scholarships by giving back, working for Americorps or Vista, helping with the environment, public safety, literacy, housing, poverty, to name just a few. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for low income families. Some work with kids at the local library, upgrading literacy skills. Others serve in their churches, mosques and temples, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

As great as the need is worldwide, and it is great indeed, there is great need here at home as well. You know I believe that you should always ask questions of authority, develop your own ideas and talk about them. Our democracy gives you the freedom to do those things. No matter how much you disagree with our leaders, current policies or the way in which others see things, the very right to disagree, out loud and in public, is the freedom you have here that so many others don’t. Freedoms have a price. For soldiers it may be their lives, for others time or money.

So remember, it is important to give back in some way, to express your gratitude in a concrete manner for the “blessings of liberty” which are not equally enjoyed yet in this country. Like the coach who found a way to serve before he was called up, serve willingly. To help make those blessings equal, to provide for those less fortunate, is a worthy endeavor, however you choose to do it.

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Things Your Dogs Want You To Know #1 ~ Borax, Vacuums and Responsibility

We had a series of wonderful dogs when you were growing up. All rescued, don’t forget that.

Max was your yellow lab. When your father and I were first together we used to visit a farm where they raised sheep and bred yellow labrador retrievers. Max was to be their new breeding sire, he was young and beautiful. We played with him every time we went and we told them we wanted a puppy from the first litter. Just before they were ready, it turned out that the new bitch had hip dysplasia and they decided it was time to retire from breeding. We got a call. They wanted Max to have a good home with loving people and they offered him to us!

Max was amazing, although at first he didn’t care for being left during the day. He ate my good work shoes to show me, and the remote control to show daddy how he felt about it. When you were born he slept in our room, as he had always done. From the day you moved to your bedroom he slept in your room until the day he died; he guarded you like gold. Max had a heart the size of Montana, he was run over several times, almost died, but kept on going.

Then there was Quincy, the adopted golden retriever. The story is complicated but the short version is that Grandma Joan got him after her ex moved to the house at the end of the driveway. Since Quincy didn’t know him, he would bark like a crazy dog every time he came out of the house. He offered to pay Quincy’s airfare if Grandma would send him to us, which she did. Quincy was a good dog. His best day in New Mexico was the day the the chicken fell out of the sky… but that’s a story for another day.

And then there was Jericho the border collie, who was really your dog. After Quincy died and our Aussie puppy was stolen, Bob and Dolly brought him home from Texas for you. Of course they didn’t ask us. They invited us over for dinner and after dinner they said, oh, we have a surprise. They let him out and he ran into your arms and it was all over. His white patches were red from being tied out in the Texas red clay and he was a sorry sight. You gave him his “bible” name because it was what you were doing in Sunday school! And he was beautiful when we cleaned him up. Jericho was afraid of a lot, especially that “vacuum monster”, but he was the most loving dog that ever was.

From the time you were just a little bit your job in the house was to feed the dogs. Responsibility for other living things can begin at a very young age. Even a toddler can scoop out a cup of kibble and put it in a bowl. Of course you ate your fair share (yuck). This remains your job, although now it’s just cats. Your pets taught you some important lessons over the years.

Loyalty, devotion and fun, these are all things that a dog brings to your life. They are good things to have whether you have a dog or not. You can learn more about unconditional love from a dog than almost anywhere else in life. The vacuum won’t hurt you even if it makes a big noise, that is a good thing to know, especially once you live alone. Borax laundry booster kills fleas, also very good to know. Sprinkle it on carpets and mattresses, it kills most any kind of bugs (not bedbugs, unfortunately). And it doesn’t hurt the other living things. Most important, remember that your pets are not able to feed themselves, just as your babies wont be. Your daddy told you when you were just a tyke, feed the helpless first, then yourself. Your dog needs you for survival and trusts you with his life, the least you can do is feed him on time.

Things I Want My Son To Know #16 ~ Its Just A Thing

Things are just things. Houses are just houses. Phones, TVs, gadgets, cars. They are all just things. Now I won’t deny that things make life more comfortable, more fun, more convenient. But in the end you don’t find meaning in things.

Robert Frost wrote a poem about home, if you haven’t read it you should; home is where they have to take you in it says. Home is not the house and home is not your things. Home is where the people who love you are. Home is where your heart is. As long as your father and I are alive, you will always have a home with us because you will always be in our hearts. And when your heart leads you to your own home, where your love lies, we will be there just in case you get your heart broken and need to come home one more time.

The loss of things is always hard, losing a house, a car, things that get stolen; it always feels like a violation, unfair. But it is only hard because we invest our things with so much meaning. Whenever I see a story of a family who has lost a house to natural disaster, I always think “what would I take if I could only take one thing”. Obviously this is assuming that the living things, people, pets, were safe. Always, it is the photos, not the things. I have many things that carry memories, but the people are in my heart. The photos are the closest thing, the thing that keeps the memories green.

I think we invest our things with so much meaning because we don’t know how else to “store” the meanings. Our culture is so much about things and what they represent that we sometimes don’t understand who we are without the things. Work hard at knowing who you are, who you would be, without your things, dropped in the middle of an ocean, in a desert, in an emergency.

Enjoy your things, especially the ones you earn. They will brighten your everyday. But they will not brighten your life the way your accomplishments will. They will not brighten your heart the way your loves will. They will not brighten your spirit the way your children will. So try to remember, while you are enjoying your things . . . they are just things. Remember what matters.

Things I Want My Son To Know #15 ~ Work For What You Get

So, I was standing in line at a store and I saw a t-shirt. As a matter of pure digression, its amazing that everybody in the world seems to be wearing a t-shirt with a message of some kind. And some of the messages are really amazing, as in things that I would think people really would not want to advertise, but that’s what makes America great. Anyway, I was standing in line and on the back of a t-shirt in front of me it said … “you get what you work for, not what you hope for”. What a true and wonderful thing.

This world is just filled with “get rich quick” and schemes to do this or that. Many of them say that you don’t have to do much of anything, you don’t have to work; things like that. Anybody or anything that tells you you can get something for nothing is almost certainly lying to you. Everything takes work, everything takes practice. Even winning the lottery costs a dollar to buy the ticket; and you know the odds are millions to one against you.

It is a wonderful thing to have a dream, to have hopes, to have a vision of what you want your life to be. But understand that you will have to work to get there. Nobody will just hand you the life you want. And most of us had to work at many things we didn’t enjoy before we found the thing we wanted to do , or the life we wanted to have.

When you work at jobs you don’t love you learn about what a dollar is worth. When you are sweaty, hot, tired, over people and your feet hurt, your paycheck means a lot. And in the beginning, when your paycheck is pretty small, maybe you will learn how to budget your money, how to pay your bills and make it last. As you work harder and make more, you will have more of the things you want, but you still need to budget your money, pay your bills and make it last.

Work isn’t always fun and it certainly isn’t for sissies. But it is the only real means to an end. This is an old fashioned idea, it seems; everyone seems to think they are entitled to “things” without work these days. The world just doesn’t work that way and getting stuck in that kind of thinking will just keep you stuck. You should be open to all kinds of ideas for “work” and try whatever feels right to you but in the end…you need to keep your dreams and visions and hopes for your future in front of you. If you work hard, and keep your hopes alive, you will get the life you want.