Last week my wife and I visited my father in his rehab facility. It’s been several months since two operations to remove the third left hip replacement and treat a fungal infection. We were pleased to see him much better off than the last time, and in much better spirits. But I ended up being blessed with the opportunity to see us able to help fill his sails with some encouragement as well, as we watched him go through three different exercises with the PT. We told him he was doing good, and both he and the PT, Carol, shared that his demonstrations of all three processes were the best he had done yet – all in preparation for going home tomorrow, hopefully.
But I also thought the visit was a good opportunity to ask my 86 year old father a couple questions I had myself reflected on last week, a part of thinking about “Let a man examine himself.” I asked my dad what he thought were his greatest achievements in life. The first two things that came to mind were his jobs as school psychologist in Canton, Ohio and Atlanta. He felt he had made significant improvements to the school systems in both locations, and shared some of the details of that. He also recalled a black employee coming to him and sharing that Rich’s had integrated their restrooms. So he said, well, why don’t we do the same here on the 14th floor of Atlanta’s city hall? And they did, and that started the integration of Atlanta’s city hall restrooms. He also thought earning his doctorate was significant, especially passing the exams in French and German. He said he was proud of me and my sister, and where we are in life.
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Dad thought turnabout was fair play, so he asked me what I thought my greatest achievement was. I said that like him, and most men, what comes to mind are three of the most challenging and gratifying experiences in my work career: a project where I designed, fabricated, installed, and programmed a microcomputer system to remote flight data between Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, then my ten years in Spain improving the air traffic control system while learning a new language and culture, and my last project this past year in Memphis to engineer, relocate, and install the Navigational Aids systems in the new air traffic control tower. I said I too was proud of all four of my kids, and my wife.
Then he asked me what my greatest regret was. I said that, also like most men, I don’t look back and say I wish I had spent more time at work and at the office. No, I wish I had spent more time with my kids as they were growing up, that I had not been a workaholic. He agreed, and said he too wished he hadn’t tended to be a workaholic, and had spent more time with me and my sister. But I still remember the smell of his t-shirts when I climbed into bed with him and mom some Saturday mornings.
So I continue to examine myself. But I also hear statements that provoke even further examination. Last week one of my pastors told me he had a funeral to go to that day, for the first wife of his son-in-law. It seems she mixed pain meds, tranquilizers, and alcohol and never woke up, although she intended to wake up. Tonight an alcoholic friend told me that alcoholism or addiction is just basic selfishness.
And the more I think about it tonight, the more I am convinced that in my life, selfishness is the root of all evil. It isn’t pride and it isn’t the love of money, it is selfishness. When I fail to encourage or I fail to give gratitude, it is really because I am thinking more of myself than the person I want to share Good Love with. When I fail to ask forgiveness, just as when I fail to forgive, it is because I’m putting more importance on me than on the other person or on the relationship.
So I ask myself, right now, will I let my struggles, my frustrations, my circumstances push me closer, move me in the right direction, ahead, or will I turn inward to self and let those things make a wedge between me and the people I love?
I choose to have hope, to be enthusiastic, to move forward two steps for every step backwards. And I choose to do the same with my heavenly Father as well. I decide to make every effort to make choices that lead to paths with long term good memories, not long term regrets. I will do the best I can with what I know now and what I have now – will you?