Taking a brief hiatus from my Iceland series to post a childhood memory of my father who recently retired at 85. My father is quite a man and I could do a whole blog just on his life and accomplishments but today I am focusing on something I learned from him by his actions.
It happened when I was ten.
It was late afternoon in 1971. I looked out the window and saw two young Mormon missionaries headed up our path. My father was an ardent Catholic and a major proponent of the “leave us the hell alone” meet and greet. Typically this was exemplified by slammed doors and aggressive phone hang-ups directed at chipper sales people, followed by an under the breath “jack ass”. I did not expect it to go well for these stewards of what I saw at the time as a mysterious, foreign and perhaps threatening faith. They were the “others”.
I remember it was hot and they were in suits. I was thinking; man I sure would not want to be them when Dad opens that door.
To my surprise my father seemed happy to see them, he let them in, set down all five of us kids and let two young “others” show us a film about their faith, followed by us asking questions. My Mom and Dad treated them royally with kindness, respect and lemonade. This visit had a big effect on me, and I still think about it all these years later. I don’t remember anything about the movie or the discussion. I just remember the part where my father opened the door, the part where he proved his own faith by living by it, by not being threatened. He showed us all how to be respectful, to listen and to learn.
This lesson in open mindfulness and kindness has served me well in my life and in my travels.
Now days, so much of what we used to think of as “collectiveness” has turned to fragmentation. When a massive Ice Berg breaks into hundreds of little icebergs, navigation becomes more important than observation. And so it is with the Internet and the thousands of images and messages that get thrown at us each day. Unlike the radio, or hard print, there is no one filtering for creativity or worthiness, there is simply you, letting your computer create an algorithm of what you already know and like and spoon feeding it to you with pop ups and emails. Your computer, or car, or entertainment device navigates for you and you just let it happen. But here lies the rub, if we only explore what we already know than we never try anything new and we never grow, personally, artistically or as a society.
So now, when I struggle respecting “others” and when I forget how to listen to real humans with real passion on real missions that mean something to them. Or when I simply feel like I already know what I need to know, I think about my Dad, I open the door, I reach out my hand and I say hello to a better world. Thanks Dad.