The principles and values we live by should not be readily identified at first. Many influences and experiences help to shape and strengthen these values until using them every day becomes like breathing in and out.
Then it happens; a unique situation arises and, without warning, these values are challenged. At that very moment, a conscious effort must be made to keep them intact or they will be shattered on the rocks of complacency; the damage sustained and the recovery time can be overwhelming.
My parents worked hard and lived a simple life. They stood for honesty, truth, fairness and compassion toward others. They practiced these values every day, even when they were taken advantage of by someone else. Looking back, I don’t believe my parents taught their values to me verbally as much as they presented them by example. How true it is that actions speak louder than words.
My parents encouraged me to treat others the way I wanted to be treated and not to take revenge if someone treated me badly. Eight years at a parochial school continued to reinforce and broaden these values. The sisters and priests had a unique and lasting way to help a young boy understand and appreciate the principles of honesty and truth.
There came a day when I was no longer a child and realized it was time to make my own way in the world. Hopefully, what I learned as a child would be strong enough to enable me to survive in a bigger world where I would no longer have the luxury of my parents making most of the decisions.
Now I would have to weigh the consequences of each decision I made. What I have learned will now be an extension of my parents in my life, still guiding and directing my steps. With this in mind and with my values packed carefully in my heart, I left the nest.
Through the years I have evolved through many of life’s experiences. I have walked on mountain tops, wandered through seemingly endless valleys and have experienced the shattering of waves against the rocks. It would be noble to say that I have held true to my values on this journey through life, but that hasn’t always been the case.
There have been times when my values have been lost to the storms of life and have been shipwrecked on the island of despair. Those have been the times when I needed to call upon an inner strength to be able to pick myself up, dust myself off and start over. Little did I know, at the time, that this inner strength is placed within us long before our earthly passage begins.
Many personal relationships, especially marriage, provide endless opportunities to practice what one believes. Marriage is a work in progress and staying true to the marital vows, remembering to love for better or worse…till death do us part can be tough at times. Marriage takes a lot of ongoing effort for the relationship to work.
It has been said that love covers a multitude of mistakes and that love is the greatest virtue of all. Virtues like understanding, forgiveness, patience, honesty, gentleness, compassion, and faith come under the umbrella of love. How can one be lacking in any of these areas if love is present?
Each day is unique and the situations appear to change, yet the situations remain the same. Values can become second nature, and it requires a conscious awareness to make sure they remain intact. Each value must be safe-guarded daily, lest in a moment of weakness one slips. Love of self must come before love of others; if one truly loves, then all other good and decent values will follow.
When my journey through this life is over, I hope to know that my children are honest, hardworking, fair, and compassionate. Then I will smile, realizing that the values their grandparents lived by each day are now part of their lives, and this legacy will be passed on to my grandchildren.
On my tombstone there will be a birth date and a death date with a small dash in between. That small and insignificant dash will represent my life on this earth. I was a son, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father, a nurse; many roles to play on life’s stage with no script to go by. I gave it my full measure and enacted each part as best I knew how. At the final curtain, I hope I can hear someone say, “He made a difference for me.”
Copyright © 2010 LeRoy Dean All Right Reserved