Thursday, June 23, 2016

Perspective is everything -- Day 239

This past weekend was Father’s Day, and it got me to thinking about some of the more famous quotes that are attributed to my dad (in my world. I’m not saying that all of these are original, created by him, just that he repeated them often enough that I will always think of him as the originator.)

“Arrive alive” and its corollary “Look both ways, live more days.”

When I was in high school, my father was the principal of Christ For the Nations Academy, a tiny private, Christian school in the South Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. CFNA was on the campus of Christ For the Nations Institute, a 2-year evangelical Bible college, and offered Kindergarten through high school education to the children of the students, staff, and faculty of the Institute. Being nestled in between two major highways, with several residential roads going through the campus, there were plenty of opportunities to be hit by careless drivers. My father’s morning announcements almost always included the exhortations to pay attention while walking through the campus and crossing the busy streets.

And then you take a step back, and apply it to your whole life. I redefine “alive” as more than just “having a life” but being full of life! When you show up, bring the party! Or at least as much energy and life-force as you can, so that you can share with others and enhance their experience. Perception is reality, so if you can “look both ways” at your situation, you can realize that there is always another side to the story. I had a friend tell me about accidentally putting a $100 tip in the starbux jar, and she turned it around from “I’m so stupid for doing that” to “I hope that it really made someone’s day.” Dad’s life lessons are deep, y’all.

“You never know what kind of day someone has had” and “Give flowers to the living.”

Following on the change in perspective from looking both ways, my father once explained to me that just because you may have been treated badly by someone in that moment, doesn't mean that their actions had anything to do with you. The guy that cut you off on the freeway? He was trying to get to his daughter's dance recital and was running late. That cashier that wasn’t particularly friendly? Their child was home sick from school, and they are worried about them. Since there is no way for you to know anything about the history behind your chance encounters, it’s much easier to try to make their day brighter. Giving flowers to the living is about honoring people that you see in your daily life with some thoughtful kindness, or even just sincere well-wishing. We will often beautifully eulogize the recently deceased, sometimes when we didn’t even like the person while they were alive. They get a beautiful bouquet of flowers on their grave, but how much better would it be if they got to enjoy the flowers while they could actually smell them?

“Remember these three things: 1. Don’t step on Superman’s cape, 2. Don’t spit in the wind, 3. Don’t pay people to scare you.”

While these have obvious, face value relevance, I think there is still deeper and broader applications. Obviously, if you get the chance to meet Superman, you probably want to stay off his clothes. But you know what’s interesting about Superman? Even the people that interact with him on a daily basis don’t recognize him out of uniform. So you should be kind and respect the personal space of others, no matter who you might think they are. This also includes being kind to yourself, by not spitting in the wind. There are enough people out there that will mistreat you, whether intentionally or not, so be kind to yourself. And don’t reward behavior that is detrimental to your mental health, or pay people to scare you. There are better things that you can find to do with your money, or you can ask me and I’ll help you spend it. :)

“I don’t call you sun because you shine, I call you son because you’re mine.”

This is one of the corniest, and sweetest things that my dad used to say to me. It makes more sense when read aloud, and sounds best in my father’s gravelly voice. The sun is the brightest object in the sky, and to think that I could be confused with that heavenly body is nice. Coupled with the verbal statement of patrimonial claim, regardless of actions either past or future, is nice.

I love my dad, and he loves me, too. Happy Father’s Day, Papa.


  1. My dad was a lot like your dad. He has dementia now so he's here but not here if you know what I mean so this touched me deeply and made me very thankful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. I love this blog post. Most of all because I can totally relate to all of Jimmy Jackson's "Dadisms." Love how you took his aphorisms and made life lessons out of each one. Wise words, Sensei.