This I Believe

Tony - Plymouth, Michigan
Entered on October 1, 2006

How Was I Raised?

It was the first sales call of the day. My prospect was a small inner city Credit Union that had just opened its doors. Once inside the lobby, a middle-aged man approached me with a smile on his face and a question. “How were you brought up?” His query caught me by surprise. “Excuse me?” I said. “I mean, how were you raised?” the man asked. He looked me up and down, as I stood there in my suit and tie holding my leather briefcase. “You must have been raised with a lot of discipline,” he said.

That comment made me pause and think for a moment. How was I raised? I was brought up in a “blue collar” neighborhood with lots of love, a tremendous amount of freedom, and yes, a good dose of discipline. In my old neighborhood, any neighbor’s parent could “discipline” you if they caught you acting up while at their house. That was a universal rule, and all the kids on the block knew it to be true.

Another universal rule was to be home before the street lights came on. I remember one particular summer night in 1969. My mother was calling for me to come home using my full Christian name, (Annnthony Bennnedict!!!!). I thought I was in trouble, but when I got home she told me to go watch the TV. Puzzled, I sat down in front of the set with the rest of my family and was awed to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the Moon.

After explaining this to the man, he told me that he had a son he was trying to “bring up right”. Even though he worked late, he gave his boy books to read and asked his son about what he read every night. I told him I thought that was great. Then he asked me if I had any suggestions that would help his son be successful in life. Apparently this man presumed me to be successful (because of my suit and tie, I’m guessing), and worthy to give advice.

I told him I believe that our children need to be taught good social values and where the boundaries of decent, civilized behavior are. They will surely test those boundaries, so they must be made clear. They also need to know that they are responsible for themselves, and that there are rewards and consequences to their actions. They should also be encouraged to take risks. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I always played it “safe”.

These ideals, along with lots of love, a tremendous amount of freedom, and a good dose of discipline is a great foundation for any kid to grow up and be successful, whatever their life and destiny defines that to be.

This I believe.