Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wisdom from Dad

On this Father’s Day, like many I have been thinking about the wisdom which I got from my Dad. My father is Clifford Revel, know to everyone as Cliff. He died in 1998 after an 18 month bout with a particularly nasty form of cancer. I speak of him in the present tense because though he is no longer around physically, his wisdom and role modeling are a living reality for me. So let me share three things I learned from my Dad.
If you’re going to do something do your best or don’t do it at all.

Dad didn’t invent this idea but he lived by it and he insisted his sons do so as well. This principle is very simple. If you agree to do something, do your very best regardless of anything else. It doesn’t matter how much you are being paid to do it or if you’re getting paid at all. If you have started something, finish it the very best that you can.
I have found this to be a very high standard. I have worked at some low paying jobs but I strove to do my very best even for minimum wage. I have done things as a volunteer. That was no excuse for Cliff’s boys to do them half-way. The same is true for menial tasks I do around home—I’ve got to do my best or not do it.
As I look back at 40 years of schooling and employment by someone other than my Dad, I am thankful that’s been my standard. My teachers and employers have always gotten—and will always get—my very best effort. I am proud of that standard.
Don’t be afraid to change.
Like most who grew up during the Great Depression, my Dad’s formal education was cut short by the necessity to work to help support the family. He only completed the 8th grade before he left school to work on the tenant farm his family tilled. However, no one ever mistook his lack of education for a lack of intelligence.
Following the path of his father, when Dad had a family of his own, he became a tenant farmer as well. If you know anything about the tenant farm system, you know that a person will never get ahead financially. My Dad worked second jobs, he started a couple of businesses on the side, and my Mom worked full time in a shirt factory just to make ends meet. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. We always struggled financially when I was growing up.
Dad was a great believer in the value of education. He was determined that I was going to college. In my senior year of high school Dad knew something had to change. If I went to college he would no longer have the unpaid farm hand that was needed to keep the farm running. My younger brother was 5, much too young to fill that role. What’s more Dad faced the reality of having to go deeply in debt to get newer farming equipment—everything we had was worn out.
He decided he was never going to get ahead the way things were going. Therefore, he decided to quit farming and take the only decent paying job he could get—a prison guard at the state prison. It was a job that offered a steady income, health benefits, and retirement plan—none of which farming offered.
So at age 41 Cliff Revel made a drastic life change, leaving farming which he loved to take a job he hated. He did it for the sake of his family. It was a huge change which many people at that age would have been afraid to make. But not my Dad.
He showed me what real courage is. In an earlier posting I talked about my hero worship of John Wayne. However, as I got older I realized that real courage is more than what cowboys on the silver screen do.
Real courage is how people face the tough times of life.
I already knew my Dad had quiet courage’ I’d seen it many times. But never was his courage more evident than in his final battle with cancer. For 18 months he fought the good fight with the pain, fear, and uncertainty that comes with pancreatic cancer. As the days passed, cancer withered him physically but not spiritually. His faith in Jesus Christ, which he had renewed some years earlier, gave him the courage and the strength to withstand the worst cancer could throw at him.
In those months, Dad and I became closer than we’d ever been. In some ways, I became his pastor. We talked about everything. He trusted me with his most personal thoughts, a new quality our relationship had not had before.
My Dad’s courage was evident not in loud bravado but in quiet resolution to not surrender to the disease. He kept his good spirits; he encouraged others who visited with him. He treasured the times with family, especially my Mom. He never surrendered, never backed up from the challenges of cancer. He fought it to his last breath. I can remember standing at his bedside moments after his spirit had departed his body thinking “Cancer lost. All it could take was his body.”
I hope that I can face the challenges of my life with that kind of courage.
We have two adult children and four grandchildren. As I have thought about the things I learned from my Dad, the inevitable next question comes: what wisdom, if any, are my children learning from me?
Only they can answer that question.


Shoreman said...

Great Post.

swampcritter2 said...

Sounds to me like your dad died a wealthy man, rich in the things that matter most. Thanks.

karen said...


Bruce Revel said...

Shoreman, swampcritter2, and karen:
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my postings, especially the one about my Dad.

Tara said...

Pop Pop was a great man dad, I'm so thankful and appreciative that his strong spirit and wisdom are still alive in you. I love you.