June 5, 2015 marked the 67th year since my parents were married. Dad passed away in 2009 so he and Mom celebrated 61 years of marriage together. Like every marriage, it had ups and downs. Growing up in this incredible family in which they raised 13 children, I often took for granted what incredible human beings they were. As I have grown older and raising my own family (only 5 children – and I think I’m busy – ha!), I’ve reflected on why I have so much admiration and respect for the lives they led.
1. My parents were considerate. We live in a world that has become very focused on ‘what’s in it for me?’ or ‘what have you done for me lately?’. It’s not that my parents didn’t have their own goals and interests but before acting they would consider how their actions would affect others. If they believed others would be harmed or inconvenienced, they wouldn’t do it. Sometimes it would be something little like letting a person take an open parking space. Other times it was taking a work shift on a weekend or holiday so someone else could be with their family. I learned as a young man that while I am important, I am no more important than anyone else. It makes me so proud to be the son of these types of parents.
2. You don’t have to have everything to have everything. I grew up in a working class family. Dad and Mom were not able to pursue a college education and their incomes were limited. Other than when the older siblings were young (when the younger ones had not come along yet) and the younger siblings were older (when the older ones moved away from home), we shared almost everything – beds, bedrooms, clothes, toys, and record players (long before CD’s and iPods). Even when we did get something of our own by buying it or getting a gift, we still shared. To this day I am grateful. We learned the joy of sharing and we learned to be unselfish. We also became resourceful in creating games and playthings. I feel sorry for others who had more possessions growing up because they didn’t receive what Dad and Mom gave to us.
3. Your most valuable asset is your reputation. Don’t take short cuts, don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t steal. Be honorable, be respectful, make your family name proud. Were we perfect kids? No. But Dad and Mom made it clear that our character and reputation were far more important than any little success or victory. Anyone who knew my parents would describe them as honest, humble, and kind – good down to earth people. I can’t think of a higher compliment and it is something my parents did a great job of conveying to my siblings and I.
4. Celebrate the good things in life. My parents were proud of us and they let us know it. Whenever we experienced great success by the world’s standards (e.g. brother Terry was a National Merit Finalist, brother Rick earned the first doctorate in the family), they were very proud. However, they celebrated all of us for who we were, Christmas and birthdays were special because we were special. When report cards came out, they would take us out for a special dinner and tell us how proud they were. Some of us had straight A’s and others might have B’s and C’s on the report card – we were all celebrated equally for doing our best.
5. Be loyal. As a young boy who was trying to be financially astute it bothered me when I would notice that dad would pay more for a product or service than he needed to. I remember seeing lower advertised prices and wondered why Dad would pay more. He told me that he valued the relationships he developed, he trusted these people would take care of him now and in the future, and that they also needed to make a living to take care of their families. Later in life I see things so much more like my dad. Relationships are critical, we need people we can trust, and chasing the lowest price usually causes frustration in service and quality.
I could write for hours on the subject of my parents and would likely have a million dollar best seller if I authored a book about their lives – the world would be a much better place with more people like Dan & Lois Byrne.
Success comes from learning from wonderful role models like Dan & Lois Byrne