All in all, I’ve had a pretty good life. Part of it is because God blesses me way more than I deserve, part is because I’ve tried to exercise some wisdom in life, but part of it is because I opted to listen to my dad’s advice on a few things early in life. I didn’t listen to everything, mind you, but I managed to learn a few lessons from him that really made a difference.
1. Big mistakes are a time for big mercy.
I disobeyed three rules that fateful Saturday morning when I was ten:
- I left the house when my parents weren’t home.
- I left before my chores were completed.
- I went out of the house barefoot.
I’d barely made it to the park across the street when I stepped on the bottom of a broken soda bottle and ended up with a foot full of stitches and 5-7 weeks on crutches.
I lay in bed awaiting my dad’s arrival with my mom’s ominous warning ringing in my ears, “Just wait until your father gets home.”
I shuddered when I heard the front door open and his footsteps coming down the hall. He stood in the doorway, took one look at me, and said, “Poor baby. Are you okay?” Then he gave me the Barbie doll camping set he had bought for me on the way home.
At times when I’ve blown it and feel like God must be mad at me, I remember the mercy my father showed me that day and I know it’s all going to be okay.
2. Not every idea is a good idea.
I had a boyfriend who spent a semester studying art in Italy. He got this bright idea that I should come to Italy at the end of the semester and we could backpack around Europe, sleeping in hostels.
I went right to work securing a passport and looking into flights for my grand adventure. My dad said, “Don’t go to Europe. Hostels are not safe and you won’t like them at all.” But I was a snappy 22 year old living out on my own. I knew everything about everything. So what if I hated the camping lifestyle and placed high value on things like daily hot showers, buffet breakfasts, and warm, cozy beds? Okay, I was naïve and stupid.
Turns out, Dad was right. The more I planned my trip, the less peace I had. Trains, hostels, not showering for days, foreign people with foreign languages and foreign ways—it all made me nervous.
Had I chosen to go, I would have wasted thousands of dollars because, as it turns out, that boyfriend dumped me before the grand adventure could begin, which leads me to the next bit of advice.
3. Eat chocolate when your heart is broken.
The man I was sure I was going to marry had informed me that we were done. I was crushed and called home sobbing at 3 o’clock in the morning (so much for being an independent 22 year old). My dad’s advice: “Go buy a pound of white chocolate and eat it all.” In other words, “Do what you love to do and forget about him. Life is too short and you are too young to let this throw you for a loop.”
The next night at work, a beautiful bouquet of flowers was waiting for me at the nurses’ station, a special gift from the one man who did love me—my dad.
4. Marry a man who can stand on his own two feet.
I was not the best at picking out boyfriends because I was always drawn to the underdog, to people who needed my help. After a few bad choices, my dad sat me down one day and said, “I know you care about people and you really like to help people, but accomplish that through your nursing job and through charity work. Don’t develop close relationships with needy people. You never want to marry a man who needs you to fix him or prop him up. Marry a man who is already standing on his own two feet.” I’m so thankful I listened and have been married for over 25 years to a man who was and is standing on his own two feet!
5. Make friends wherever you are.
We moved a lot when I was growing up and I was forever saying goodbye to old friends and starting over. This was hard, especially because I was terminally shy. I had a tendency to cling to my old friends, not wanting to make new ones. My dad always told me to, “Go out and make some new friends.”
I never took that advice to heart until I started nursing school. I remember walking in the door and thinking, “I have friends here and I just need to meet them.” Little did I know that a few days later I’d meet a friend who would be like a sister to me. Thirty-two years later and half a country away from one another, we still keep in touch. Nevertheless, wherever I go I remind myself that , “I have friends here and I just need to meet them.”
6. When life knocks you down, get right back up and keep on living.
At one point, my dad suffered a horrible wrong that he did not deserve. It was utterly terrible and would have destroyed a lesser man.
Yet, the very next day, after enduring the unthinkable, he got up, made the necessary adjustments, and went on with life. No self pity, no wallowing, no expecting someone to rescue him, and no revenge. He simply dusted himself off and continued moving forward. I cannot even begin to tell you what a powerful lesson he taught me by the way he responded to being wronged.
My dad taught me much more, but I’ll save those lessons for another Father’s Day.