What Gift(s) Did Your Father Give You?

"My father gave me the greatest gift you can give anyone. He believed in me." -Jim Valvano On this Fathers Day, what gift(s) did your dad give you?

A good friend who’s a psychologist has a question she likes to ask, “What is something you remember your parents telling you?”

It’s an innocent enough question, yet it is a mini-Rorschach test.

What we choose to say – of all the thousands of things that were said and done throughout our childhood – says a lot about our parents and says a lot about us.

For some people, what stands out in their mind of what their parents said is:

“I’m sorry I had you.”

“You were a mistake.”

“You’re driving me crazy.”

For others, it’s:

“You can be anything you want to be.”

“You never know until you try.”

“Do the right thing.”

What do you remember your parents saying or doing that has had lifelong impact on you?

In particular, on this Father’s Day, what did your dad say or do that has stuck with you?

That last one from the list above, “Do the right thing,” is what our dad and mom – Warren and Ruth Reed - told us. Well, not in so many words. They inferred it. Here’s what I mean.

We grew in a small town in Southern California. And when I say a small town, I mean s-m-a-l-l, more horses than people.

If you draw a triangle between Ojai, Santa Maria and Taft, New Cuyama would be in the middle of that triangle.

My dad was the ag teacher at the local high school, which had 104 students in its “biggest” year.

Dad was in charge of the local FFA and 4-H club, which meant we grew up with animals. Rabbits. Sheep. Hogs. Cattle. Horses. Chickens.

When it was a cold wintry night and time to feed the rabbits, I would ask my dad, “It’s freezing out there. Do I have to feed the rabbits tonight? Can’t I do it in the morning?” ….

he wouldn’t say, “Yes, you have to feed the rabbits. They’re depending on you. How many times do I have to tell you ….”

he would say, “Do the right thing.”

When my sister, brother and I would go riding on a 100 degree summer day and come back on sweaty horses …

and ask our dad if we could just turn them loose in the corral instead of walking them until they’d cooled down …

he wouldn’t say, “You know the rules. You don’t leave until their sweat has dried.”

he would say, “Do the right thing.”

He instilled in us that when we’re tempted to do the easy thing, the expedient thing, the convenient thing …that instead we choose to do the right thing.

Thanks Dad.

You’re no longer with us so I can’t tell you this face-to-face, so I am sending my thanks heavenward.

Because of you and mom teaching me that doing the right thing deserves to be our automatic default, I did my best to model and instill that in my sons Tom and Andrew.

It is a JOY seeing them choose to live their life that way.

And it is a joy seeing them carry on your legacy as they teach their young children to become respectful, grateful, responsible citizens who choose to do the right thing.

What did your dad say or do that is still with you?

If you are lucky enough to still have him around, how will you thank him today for making an enduring difference for you?

If he’s not, how will you send your thanks heavenward, and let him know how you’re carrying on his legacy and doing your best to pass along his lessons to your loved ones?

Happy Fathers Day.

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Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, has the best of all worlds. She gets to speak for organizations such as National Geographic and ASAE, her books have been featured in NY Times and on NPR, and she gets to help people create one-of-a-kind books and TEDx talks.