Growing up, we all had people that inspired us. People we would consider heroes and role models.
These people helped us become who we are today. They helped us create our worldview. They influenced our moral code. They showed us how to treat people, and the world around us. They taught us lessons on how to live.
In most cases, they did it just by being themselves. By living.
That’s what made them so special.
They didn’t set out to become heroes or role models. They were that way naturally, without any special efforts or attempts to be anything other than who they were.
They lived their lives in such a magnificent and inspiring way, we wanted to emulate them.
One of my greatest heroes, and the best man I ever knew, was my father.
He was inspirational to me was not because he was my father, but because he was a great man. He inspired many people, and affected their lives deeply.
He had all the traits we think of, when we think of great people : Kindness, patience, dedication, loyalty, honesty, a strong moral code, faithfulness, and zest for life.
He was the kind of person that when he was speaking to you, you felt you were the only person in the world. He looked you in the eye every time, no matter what. Whether you were sharing good news, great sadness, or just talking about the weather, you had his undivided attention.
He also looked you in the eye with every greeting and departure. He had a strong handshake, maybe a bit too strong.
When he met someone for the first time, he always asked about them, to get a feel for who they were. He used their name right away frequently, both to put them at ease, and so he would remember it.
He truly cared how other people felt. It wasn’t that he cared how they felt about him, even though almost everyone loved him immediately, but rather he wanted to be sure they felt loved. Without overtly stating it, he wanted people to know someone else in the world thought they were special.
When he passed away, the extent of how much loved he was loved was evident.
The church he attended throughout his life had two chapels. The original chapel was built in the 1800s and did not seat many people. They used it for early morning services, which was what my father attended with a handful of others. The main chapel was more modern, and had a large seating capacity. In addition to the main seating area, it had a balcony area, and there was an area behind the pulpit, to each side, for the choir.
In my Dad’s Will, he specified he wanted a small family service in the old chapel.
My mother received a call from the pastor stating that this would not do. There were many people who had already called the church requesting information about the arrangements. We were informed that if a large public service was not held, there would be many disappointed people.
That put my mother in a quandary. She wanted to please those who wanted to honor my father, but she would not go against his wishes.
Fortunately, I came up with a solution.
His Will specified there was to be a small family service in the old chapel, but it didn’t state that was the only service that could be held.
Here’s what we did: We held a small private funeral early in the morning in the old chapel for immediate family, per Dad’s wishes. Later that morning, we held a large public service in the main chapel for everyone else.
It worked out perfectly!
It was good we did that, too, because the large chapel was filled beyond capacity. Inside was standing room only, but many people had to stay outside, as the church was not able to hold them all.
After the services, I found myself talking to many people about my father.
One conversation stands out to this day. It contains a lesson, several in fact, that I refer to frequently. They sum up the kind of man my father was.
A man came up to me and introduced himself. I’ll call him Bob, but unfortunately I do not remember his real name. He was one of my father’s co-workers in the county government. My father worked for the department of public works most of his life, after a stint in the family business and in the Navy.
Bob related a story to me that happened many decades ago.
He was up for a promotion, and had an interview scheduled. He did not know how to tie a necktie, and so, he always wore clip-on ties. Wanting to make a good impression at the interview, he bought a real necktie. Not knowing how to tie it, he had someone tie it for him and put it around his neck.
My father saw him that morning. Bob told Dad he was a bit nervous about the upcoming interview, and in his nervousness, he confessed to getting a “real tie” for it and needing to have someone else tie it for him.
Dad, in his usual way, commended him on the decision. Without being condescending or insulting, Dad also informed him the necktie had been tied with a half-windsor knot and that simply would not do, not for something as important as an interview for a job promotion.
According to Dad, nothing less than a full windsor knot would be appropriate. My father believed it was important to always look your best.
Bob reminded Dad that he had no idea how to tie a necktie, much less the distinctions between different kinds of knots.
My Dad said not to worry, that he would make sure the tie had a full windsor, and if Bob would give him just a few minutes, Bob would be able to tie it himself.
They retired to the men’s room, and Bob stood in front of a mirror with Dad behind him. Dad proceeded to teach him the art of tieing a necktie. In about twenty minutes, Bob not only had a perfect full windsor knot on his tie, but he had tied it himself. From that day forward, he always remembered how to tie a full windsor necktie knot.
Bob told me he thought of my father almost every day of his life after that encounter, because almost every day, he tied a necktie.
He went on to tell me not only had Dad taught him how to tie a necktie, but Dad had instilled a level of self esteem in him that had never been there before.
All this from a twenty minute necktie lesson in front of a mirror!
In case you are wondering: Yes, Bob got the promotion that day.
There are many lessons we can take away from this incident. Some are marketing or business related, and some are life lessons. Here are just a few of them:
- Always look your best
- Go for the real thing, not cheap imitations
- Take the additional small effort to do a task correctly and completely
- If you don’t have a skill, learn it
- Never be afraid to ask for help
- If someone is in need of help, help them
- If you have a skill, and see someone in need of it, then teach them
- If you can positively impact someone’s day. then do it
- If you have the power to raise someone up, then raise them up
- Don’t merely do for others, when you can teach them to do for themselves
- Make everyone that interacts with you feel special
Most importantly: Do all of the above with love, kindness and a smile on your face.
Those are just a few of the many lessons I learned from my father.
What lessons have you learned from your heroes and roles? In what ways did they inspire you? I’d love to see your replies in the comments section below.
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