At the top of my list is my dad.
Recently I participated in a webinar on the science of effective coaching. The instructor, Dr. Richard Boyatzis, is a leader in the fields of Social and Organizational Psychology. In all his wisdom, he started the class with a simple question. He asked us to think over our lives and our careers and consider who were the people who helped us the most in our development. For me, there were quite a few family members, supervisors, and teachers. But number one was my dad.
Dr. Boyatzis then asked us to recall what those critical people did that was so helpful and how did it make us feel. Some of you may remember my reference to this poem years ago, but when asked this question, I was immediately reminded of it.
As he Lights Our Way
When life descends into the pit
I must become my own candle
Willingly burning myself
To light up the darkness around me.
In her book, “By the Light of My Father’s Smile” Alice Walker wrote these words without ever having met my dad. How she knew of him, I don’t know. But her words describe very well his impact on me.
My life was never perfect. But I didn’t know that until much later when I was sharing with my husband my belief that while growing up, I’d missed out on “going through anything”. In that moment, I listed what were clearly actual difficulties and challenges. But I had never seen them that way.
That’s what my dad did for me.
I believed that my dad could do anything. He made everything ok, no matter what. By his example, I came to know that I too can do anything. I understood that no matter what, I will be ok. In this way, he showed me the light in every situation. What a gift for a father to give.
But with that gift, comes responsibility. My dad also taught me that no matter where I end up, I must leave it better than I find it. There is such faith in that. There is a knowledge that not only do I have a purpose, but I am called to fulfill that purpose. No matter what. I never have to ask why or what for. The answer to the question is always right before me, in that moment. Every gift is received in order to give.
From my father’s gift, not only did I learn that I wanted to shine, but he taught me how to shine and how to attract into my life those who help me to do just that. He taught me that in order to find what I want, I must first be what I am looking for. Only then will I recognize it in others.
I recognized it in my husband right away. But when I really knew it, was when he proclaimed in front of everyone the promise he made on behalf of his daughter on the day of her birth. The gifts of my father allowed me to allow my children to have the father they deserve. I knew then that my husband knew too the responsibility that comes with gifts received.
Dr. Boyatsis’ final question was essentially, how are we making a difference for others? Who will say that we are a light for them?
Obviously, no dad is perfect. None of us are. But that is not the point. All we are asked to do is to light the way. No matter what.
Shine on and Happy Father’s Day!