The Wisdom of Dad

Father’s Day was this past Sunday. I spent some time thinking about my dad who passed away in 2010. He was one of the smartest, most capable people I’ve ever known. All that with a 10th grade education and blue-collar railroad carman work history.

I won’t regale you with a bunch of personal dad stories except for one that illustrates the point I want to make, which is that wisdom is not a monopoly for people with big titles and formal education. In 1990 I was a young chamber of commerce executive in Independence, Missouri, and our daughter had just been born. My parents and a brother and his family came to see the new grandbaby. It was one of the rare times they ever visited.

Anyway, after the requisite oowing and aahing over the baby, I asked Dad if he’d like to see where I worked. We drove over to the chamber, which at that time was in a 1960s era blond-brick, one-story building tucked in between a brick warehouse and a bar.

As we took the short tour around the building, I was a bit apologetic about the place. It wasn’t much. Dad didn’t say anything, just listened and took it all in. Finally, he said, “This sure beats the he** out of throwing rail ties up out of a hopper car, don’t it?” He was referring to a summer job I had at the Milwaukee Railroad where I did just that in the humid Iowa heat of summer. Later he added, “Remember that you’ve already come much further than most people ever have to go.”

I don’t think he ever fully understood what the chamber of commerce did but he was proud of the fact that I was first in our line to ever go to college and that I wasn’t having to do what he called ‘stoop labor.’

In his own wise way he was saying ‘keep things in perspective, appreciate what you have and what you’ve accomplished, don’t forget where you came from.’ Wise counsel for all of us, I suppose.