I believe in the singular importance of family.
My dad once told me there is nothing more important than family. When I was just a few years out of college, starting to make a life for myself out in the world, my younger cousin Debbie, upon her own graduation from college, chose to leave her home, without telling anyone where she was going. She left a note, saying she didn’t want to be a part of the family anymore and asked that they not try to find her.
My dad could not understand why she would do this. He said, “At the end of the day, that’s really all we have – our family.”
Now I’m not a rich man, at least not by the way most people measure wealth. But I am fortunate to be healthy, to live in a warm, comfortable home, and to know the love of a close family. I owe all that I have to growing up in an environment where I was taken care of and taught simple lessons by parents who loved me and wanted only the best for me.
My parents raised my younger sister Sheree and me, ensuring that we were healthy and safe and never left alone. Dad worked a lot when I was growing up, but he always found a way to be there for me – to play catch after work, help me with my homework, and watch my high-school wrestling matches.
He taught me the most useful lesson I ever received from anyone – to know the difference between right and wrong. He never told me what that difference was; he showed me, by his own words and actions.
My mom was an ordinary American housewife. While my dad worked, she kept our home clean and comfortable. She prepared healthy meals, even in later years, after she went back to work. She sent my sister and me off to school in the morning and was there when we got home. We were her priority, every single day. As I look back now, she was actually quite extraordinary.
My parents made sure that I never found a reason to run around with anyone who could turn into the “wrong crowd”. I often see television news footage of young people – teenagers, mostly – hanging out on a street corner during the school day or late at night. They’re on the news because they were involved of some kind of trouble. I never thought of being out at night when I was was ten or twelve or even fifteen years old. I stayed home, not just because we had some rule that you couldn’t go out on school nights, but because I wanted to be home. I liked being with my family, watching television or playing games. I liked it because I felt safe.
I believe in the importance of a loving family that will not just be there for you, but will be there with you, teaching the difference between right and wrong, and giving you a reason to stay in on a school night.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.