I grew up in a very proper Catholic family. Five brothers and me, with just enough of all the right ingredients to make it a childhood well remembered. It was a very strict upbringing, and, in those days, more the norm than not.
My father used some unusual techniques to teach us and rarely spared us from the school of hard lessons. These are the two I cherish most.
On the first day of 2nd grade, my father asked me if I could read well. "Yes, I can," I said. So he gives me a hand drawn map with street names and directions on how to walk to school. School is 3 miles away, and I have never been off my home street by myself, ever.
The look he gives me as he hands me the map with my lunch box and jacket says very little, he simply says, "Everything you need to know is written on the map, read the map and follow the directions, don't run, don't stop and don't turn back."
Okay, by now I'm standing in disbelief at his request, scared to death, but he kisses me goodbye and sends me out the door. And off I go to school, crying, but walking.
I don't know how long it took for me to get there, or how many fearful and anxious moments I had, but I do remember forever how it felt when I came around the last corner, and saw my school. The relief, the laughter, the joy. I had made it! I jumped up and down and angry as I was with my Dad, I wished I could tell him right then that I had done it.
He wasn't there when I got home and I was asleep when he got home. The next day he saw me and said, "Hi, I saw you playing at recess yesterday, did you have fun?" I murmured, "Yes", and waited for him to ask what happened. He never did. He just grabbed me up and took me to breakfast in the kitchen and we laughed and talked and our day began.
Years later I finally got the courage to ask him why he did that and why he hadn't cared about what had happened.
He just looked at me for a few minutes then said, "I didn't have to ask you, I knew. I followed you the whole way in the car, but far enough back so you could not see me. I saw you jump up and down at the last street corner. I felt what you felt." Then I understood and I cried.
In high school, my freshman year, I joined the girls athletic club. At our first track meet, I entered into the long jump, and was made an alternate for the 50 yard dash. I protested the 50 yard dash, since I was better at long distance, but they assured me I would never have to run, they just ran out of alternates.
Guess what, the primary for the 50 yard did not show up and I had to go. As i walked up the to start line, I saw my Dad on the sidelines. This was the first time he was able to make it and I thought, Oh no, he's watching.
Position, ready, set and off goes the starting gun. Believe it or not, I close my eyes and run like I've never run before.
Now never believed I had a chance of winning—I was an endurance runner, not a sprinter. But, lo and behold I start to hear cheering and think for a minute, is it possible? I open my eyes and to my utter dismay. Everyone else is crossing the finish line, inches away from each other and I am only half the distance.
That moment felt like days. I felt so stupid, I just wanted to melt into the ground and disappear. Worse than that, my Dad was watching and then I felt ashamed and humiliated. I kept running hard as I could, crying all the way towards the finish line. It seemed no one noticed me as I crossed the finish line and walked away with whatever dignity I could muster. As I passed the bleachers, I saw my Dad standing there looking at me and I thought, why did he have to see that? I was ashamed to look at him. He walks over to me and says, "I'm so proud of you." I'm flabbergasted, "For what!" I said, "Everyone else finished before I even got half way, I looked like an idiot." And like always, he waits a beat before he speaks, "Because you didn't quit, not even when you realized what had happened, you still gave it your all and finished." I laughed and cried at the same time.
I found I could face what seemed impossible, even alone and afraid, and, that winning does not always come in the package you expect. I give my best effort to all I do, win or lose. I don't quit in the middle of anything. And when I wanted most to quit on myself, I didn't.
My children are raised and on their own now. I see the evidence of my efforts in their lives by their dedication to their families, hard work, good character, integrity and hearts for service. I watch as they begin with their children.
Submitted by Anonymous