‘In the practical realm of daily life, my father was a master. There was nothing he couldn’t fix, create or learn if he set his mind to it. He figured things out.
He could build a bureau or a personalized step stool for a grandchild. He could make a clock out of an old brass pressure gauge from the refinery where he worked all of his life. If something broke and he couldn’t find a part, he’d figure out how to make one. My mother wasn’t the least interested in sewing, but when my father wanted to mend something, he bought a sewing machine and taught himself how to use it.
My father’s store of practical knowledge was encyclopedic. Before Google, he was everybody’s go-to guy. He was endlessly curious and was always learning something new. He just wanted to know “how” and “why.”
My father also believed that there was a right way to do things. The right way to wash a wall before painting – from the bottom up and not the top down, so it doesn’t run and streak. The right way to remove wallpaper. The right way to behave. The right way to deal with people. Growing up, we butted heads regularly because it always seemed that what I did wasn’t good enough. Lots of tears and door slamming.
But I never, ever thought that there were things I couldn’t do because I was a girl.
I am a public relations professional, I deal in concepts and words and relationships. He was most at home with the concrete – if he had been able to go to college, I think he would have been an engineer.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I even began to understand that my father’s approach to life had become the heart of my belief about myself and the way the world works.
I don’t know if he could have articulated his philosophy, but I have come to realize that my father’s core belief was in — possibility. He believed we could figure things out. We could solve the problem, build the bridge, make things work.
And one day I realized that I also live out of the conviction that I can learn new things, turn an idea into reality, make things better. And like my dad, I too have come to believe it’s important to do things right – whether washing a wall or writing a speech.
Beyond asking “why,” I believe we should never stop asking “why not?” I believe I can be an agent for change, and that the status quo is just the launching pad for the next place we are going to be.
Believing in possibilities is ultimately a demonstration of hope. It means that peace is possible. That we have a chance of saving the environment, eliminating poverty. It means things can change. We just have to figure it out.
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