I believe that family is everything and must come first. It may seem cliché, but I wonder how many of us truly practice what we preach. My mother always told me to love my brothers because someday, they would become my best friends. I never believed her, but as I have become older, I realize what she was talking about. The bond between family is hard to break. It is a steady network of strength and support. It is Thanksgiving on a cold November night; it is Christmas morning and the smell of hot chocolate; it is barbeques and pool parties on a humid summer night. It is everything.
When our foreign exchange student came to stay with us from Chile, I imagined her as my sister. I was thrilled that she could possibly be a new member of my family and even more so because we are a family of all boys. Almost immediately, she erupted with questions as her culture shock set in. She wondered why our family lived in different states because in Chile, all families live close to each other. She wondered why we had so many divorces because in Chile, no families go through divorce. In fact, it was legalized only a few years ago.
When I was thirteen, I had the misfortune of going through divorce. My family was ripped apart, pulled out from underneath me. “Your parents still love you,” they told me, “they just stopped loving each other.” Sure, I believed them. They were the “experts.” After all, they had been through these situations many times.
A couple of years later, my father got remarried. At first, nothing happened. Then, my dad began to pull away. He began to refuse to help my older brothers through college, even though he had promised them that he would. He said he had no money, and then he purchased a big expensive house, far away from us. He began talking about having kids and starting a new family. About looking out for himself and having a comfortable retirement.
One day, I had the opportunity of talking with an old retired fireman. He seemed to have gone through everything my dad had gone through. He was divorced and had lost sixty-five percent of his possessions. Regardless, he kept his promise to his son and supported him through school. He worked two jobs and took out loans to help his son finish. Sure he lives a modest lifestyle, nothing too exciting when compared to my dad’s lifestyle, but sometimes I wonder who is truly happier? Here is a man that sacrificed everything he had for his family and willingly. I believe that a man who is willing to put his family first, before himself, must define what it truly means to be a father.
When we leave this earth, we will leave our material possessions behind. It is our decision whether we leave memories of support and love or whether we leave trails of broken promises and stacks of stale green money. The man who puts his family first, the man that sacrifices everything for them, will be the man who finds true happiness in this life and in the next. I can call that man a true father and I hope that one day, I will be able to exude these characteristics. I believe that family is everything and must come first.
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