My father Cliff came from a humble start in life, growing up in an orphanage, then transitioning to the US Army. In his early 20’s, Dad experienced World War II, and like many veterans of his generation, he never told us the whole story around what he witnessed. He married Mom as the post-war boom was underway, and Dad decided not to dwell on his past, but to start a family and later experience some of the prosperity which was lacking from his early years.
Against this backdrop, there were certain values which surfaced in Dad’s daily discourse with my brothers, sisters, and me. Mom just shook her head when Dad would remind us “prestige comes from productivity” and he would plop his wallet on the kitchen table to remind us that the almighty dollar was important to achieving success in life. All of this surfaced after Dad retired from the Army and began a second career with Met Life.
Don’t get me wrong about Dad. He was all about making sure we went to Mass, receiving the sacraments, and attending Catholic school. He did not tolerate misbehavior or disrespect, particularly toward our teachers. His Catholic faith was not complicated, which started with a core belief that God would take care of him and his family, and, beyond faithfully regularly attending Mass, that’s pretty much as far as it went.
When financial prosperity became a reality in the late 1960’s, Dad wanted to show others he had “arrived”, with nice cars, a swimming pool, and vacations to destinations like Hollywood, Fl for company conferences. While he was happy to see his family enjoy the fruits of his labor, Mom could never quite shake off her Depression-era mentality, and was less impressed with the prosperity, favoring a simpler life instead.
Dad’s thinking was embraced by my siblings and me, almost as if it was expected of us, as we too worked hard to bring up our own families, while striving to achieve and enjoy the prestige that comes with productivity, as Dad had talked about. Consequently, we have all been blessed collectively with many children and grandchildren, experiencing some challenges and setbacks, but achieving lots of prosperity in the love of family. We all wish Dad and Mom could have lived longer to see their huge “clan”.
Many of us reach a point where it’s becomes less about pursuing, and more about using what God gives us to help others. For me, it has been about understanding God’s direction and purpose. In recent years, it’s been about sharing the good news of the salvation story and the infinite love of Jesus, helping give others a measure of hope of life everlasting. Encouragement is powerful.
The prestige/productivity thing Dad talked about finds perfection not in accumulating more and more stuff, but in being content and thanking God for His many blessings. Using our gifts and talents to bring others along to know the love and mercy of Jesus is a good way of showing thanks.
Have a Blessed Sunday!