This I Believe

Joseph - Rochester, New York
Entered on July 19, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

A Person of Value

“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

Albert Einstein

Becoming a person of value sounds like good advice—that is, a worthy lifetime goal.

I always wanted to be “successful” as a son, sibling, husband, father, teacher, parent, and grandparent. And by “successful” I mean that I wanted to be a person of value. I never dreamed of being a “success” in terms of money. I longed to be a success in the eyes of my family—first my family of birth, and then the family my wife and I created together. Success was never about money or popularity.

Nevertheless, at times, along life’s winding journey, I did hope that important people in my life would say, “Joe, you’re doing a good job. We’re proud of you.”

Along the way I was periodically praised and thanked in the form of handshakes, hugs, birthday cards, positive evaluations, a tenure appointment, and sincere thanks from many.

But I longed for more. Why?

I remember helping my father in the backyard preparing plumbing pipes. On weekends my Uncle Jimmy helped too. One sweaty Saturday, Uncle Jimmy walked by, smiled, and whispered to my father just loud enough for me to hear, “Joe is working hard. Why don’t you tell him?”

Dad answered, “If I do that, he might slow down.”

Okay, so Dad wasn’t good at dispensing praise. Did it affect my personality? It sure did. I became a “sensitive person.” In most people’s mind, if you’re called that it’s not a compliment.

But I do take it as a compliment. Being sensitive has helped me become a valuable person. Most writers are perceptive people. So I am right where I belong, doing the right thing, sharing what’s in my heart for readers.

Childhood was tough. As a teacher, I know that I was a “wounded healer,” but life has turned out well. Although I am retired, I don’t think my best days are behind me, especially considering three recent events.

Even though I have been published in a variety of magazines, I never had the courage to send an essay to Chicken for the Soul. I thought the competition was too stiff. I recently sent off a story, and it was accepted. So I sent another. The second one was accepted. Now they have two more essays and poems pending review. Chicken Soup was a perfect fit for me.

My daughter April wrote this inside my last birthday card, “I hope you know that I think of you every day, no matter how crazy it is. The older I get, the more blessed I feel that I had a father who played with me, read with me, and frequently told me that I was a worthwhile person. I know so many people who had Dads that were never there or they were afraid of. You are special because you always had my respect, and I always could talk to you. Thanks for always loving me no matter what.”

I think that I have become a person of value.