In light of my upcoming birthday, I want to share some of the many lessons I’ve learned from my Dad over the past 43 years.
1. How to ride a bike
2. How to drive a car (Interestingly, while knowing how to drive a car was important for about 10 years, since I have lived in China for the past 18 years without a car, knowing how to ride a bike has actually been an even more important skill in my life)
3. How to set goals (although comparatively, my goals have definitely not been as crazy as my Dad’s—which have included running his age in miles on his birthday beginning in his 30s up to age 59, celebrating his 60th birthday by biking across America, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro...)
4. Alongside the goal-setting was the understanding that giving it my all and trying my best was more important than the accomplishment or failure
5. The importance of discipline (Running was an activity that our whole family was involved in and my Dad influenced my three siblings and me to run every single day—which I did from age 10 to 20)
6. Along with discipline was the lesson of making sure to stop and smell the flowers (I remember the Con Ed running trail in Boone when every time we got to the top of the long uphill my Dad would make us take a break to enjoy the view and to catch our breath)
7. The importance of pace, especially on the longer runs, and being able to persevere. I will never forget my Dad running alongside me during our many road races, encouraging me toward the end that the finish line was just around the corner (or over the next hill...) “Don’t give up. You can do it.” This has been one of my most valuable lifelong lessons. When life gets hard and I feel like giving up, my Dad inspires me to keep pressing on and to endure the hardships. Knowing that my Dad is a runner, it won’t surprise you to know that as he started to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, he whispered, “Is this a good pace?”
8. The importance of family activities/vacations and making memories together. Including a love for the outdoors and camping.
9. My Dad’s example of taking his job seriously and working hard, along with how he clearly communicated to my siblings and me that we were even more important to him than his job (he would rotate taking us with him on business trips and he would have regular special time with each of us—taking us out to Shoney’s breakfast buffet or Bojangles’s Biscuits before school)
10. The blessing of seeing him set aside this kind of special time with each of our kids when my Dad and Mom have come to China and their having each of their grandkids spend a special week with Grammie and Poppie when they turn 12. Even though we live far away, my kids know how much my Dad values them, just like I knew when I was growing up —without a doubt.
11. The value of all people—regardless of skin color or status. The way my Dad has always taken a sincere interest in people and talked with them by name (like the janitor in his office) has left a deep impression on me. I can still see him rolling down his car window at an intersection to pass on McDonald’s coupons to a homeless person, and asking him how he was doing that day .
12. The blessing of giving to others. My Dad has an incredibly generous heart and he loves to give to people in need (like at the soup kitchen or through Habitat for Humanity), to his family and friends, and to what God is doing around the world.
I recently came across a college scholarship application that I filled out 24 years ago. This is how I answered the question “What person has directly influenced you the most and how?”
“My father has been the biggest influence in my life. I started running ten years ago under his encouragement. As result of his training system, I learned that patience, determination and hard work result in success. Today, these values form the backbone of my beliefs. In addition, his support both in times of my success and failure has shown me that it is not what I accomplish but how hard I try that matters.”
"let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b
I’m so thankful for my Dad’s ongoing example in my life, for his encouragement and support to me, to Charly and to our kids, and for what I am continuing to learn from him.
There is a great phrase in Chinese that literally means “to add gas,” like at a gas station (pronounced jia yo). It’s used especially in sports competitions to cheer someone on, and when I think of the remaining “life to the full” that God has in store for my Dad, who is 68 years young, before he reaches the finish line, I am cheering for him, like he has cheered for me my whole life: 加油！