We all believe in certain things, and the sum of those beliefs really defines us. As a father and grandfather, I hope to pass on some of my beliefs to those loved ones that follow me, while letting them decide the beliefs they choose to follow. Being less than perfect, I do not do, or have not done, everything I suggest below. But I do, or have done, most and believe in the rest. Your list would be different and maybe much better, but after you write down such a list, you will know yourself better. But to really know yourself, let friends and family grade you on how well it describes you. I expect it could very much be an eye-opener. Here goes.

I believe in the following thoughts/ideas:

  1. Be able to pass a citizenship test
  2. Moderation in all things
  3. Use technology, but don’t let it use you
  4. Let your good deeds be discovered, not announced
  5. Serve in the military or some civic service
  6. Occasionally give each of your children your undivided attention
  7. Pick up random bits of litter
  8. Make fresh air a priority
  9. Desire perfection but accept a best effort
  10. Visit other countries and other parts of your country
  11. Visit people in a nursing home
  12. Take care of babies and toddlers for a week before having your own
  13. Work with those of different ethnicity
  14. Eat less, move more
  15. Reward yourself occasionally
  16. Earn what you take
  17. Be generous with what you earn
  18. Study history
  19. Notice things
  20. Rethink having earphones on in public
  21. Occasionally take deep breaths
  22. Be a mentor to someone
  23. Smile honestly
  24. Make every attempt  to be on time
  25. Take long walks
  26. Be responsible for something
  27. Do what you say you will do
  28. Never smoke that first cigarette
  29. Understand risk and consequences 
  30. Take a parenting class/test prior to having a child
  31. Stop at lemonade stands
  32. Respond to all reasonable requests, even if it’s no.
  33. Have a workable plan
  34. Have an informed opinion
  35. Watch the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  36. Remember the good, forget the bad, but learn from both
  37. Trust your instincts 
  38. Go to farmer’s markets
  39. Don’t accept the rude behavior of others (unless they can beat you up)
  40. Never tailgate, except at sporting events
  41. Save at least 5% of whatever you earn, 10% or more is better
  42. Wave to folks in sparely populated areas
  43. Have some knowledge of etiquette
  44. Look up at billowy white clouds
  45. Dress properly for the occasion 
  46. Argue respectfully
  47. Never be patronizing
  48. Make eye contact
  49. Governments should make laws, enforce laws, and interpret laws—as seldom as possible
  50. Never use the f-word (except, maybe, when you stub your toe, etc.)
  51. Buy locally when possible
  52. Give family the benefit of doubt, while being the toughest to convince.
  53. Think outwardly, not inwardly
  54. If you move away, always root for your home team
  55. Let cashiers know if you were undercharged (or overcharged)
  56. Never forget the big picture 
  57. Violence is a display of fear and ignorance
  58. Whistle while you’re alone, but rarely in public.
  59. Know the friends of your kids
  60. Wear seatbelts/helmets because your smart, not because it’s the law
  61. Never text while driving, even if you think you’re good at it.
  62. Give in sometimes, but not at the wrong times.
  63. Swing your arms when you walk, slightly.
  64. Be patriotic! But not ‘idiotic’ patriotic.
  65. Never stop learning
  66. Keep busy
  67. Never be drunk and/or naked in front of your kids
  68. Respect the customs of others, especially in their homes and/or country 
  69. Ask a lot of questions, especially at your doctor’s and insurance agent’s
  70. Call your mom
  71. If you have a good relationship with your dad, you won’t have to call him, but do.
  72. Go out of your way to be kind to those who need kindness the most
  73. Think, but not always
  74. The best things in life are free, you just have to notice them.
  75. The core family is the most important social unit on earth--it needs help

If you disagree with anything, that means you are not me. And that is a good thing for you.
Thanks for taking time to read!

PictureStatistically, less than one player will be arrested on this field--BUT...
What’s going on in the NFL regarding the conduct of its players? Does their behavior reflect the public's? Do they tend to have issues within certain types of behavior? The recent incidents involving Ray Rice and Jonathon Dwyer (alleged domestic violence) and Adrian Peterson (alleged child abuse) has opened up the conversation about the behavior of NFL players that has often been overlooked and/or under punished. What do we know?

The Off-the-Field Stats

Since 2000, 725 players have been arrested for violations greater than a speeding ticket. Some teams have a much larger problem with arrests than others. Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Denver averaged around 42 players arrested in that time span while St. Louis, Arizona, and Houston averaged only 11. Has this something to do with drafting criteria? Certainly some clubs look into character and background more than others.

Most arrests involve DUIs (202), but assault and battery (88), and domestic violence (85) are very significant. But how does this stack up to the general public? The results may be surprising but there are many factors to consider.  

Are We Over-reacting  to the NFL's Issues?

When the arrest rates of all NFL players are compared to all men 25-29 years of age, we find that NFL players are arrested, on average, at just 13% of the all 25-29 year old men rate! Domestic violence arrests are at 55.4% rate of the 25-29 male general population. So while the rate of domestic violence is less than the rate for all 25-29 males, it is much more of a problem in the NFL than say, theft, burglary, or fraud. In other words, in the NFL, “domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, compared to our estimated 21 percent nationally.” I draw from those statistics that having money can remove the incentive for theft, while it does nothing to remove or reduce learned violent behavior. Yet, overall, and in every category, NFL players are much less likely to be arrested than the average citizen.

Maybe we Aren't Over-reacting?

Does the lower rate of arrests for NFL players get them, and the NFL off the hook? Here are some things to consider. NFL players are in the top 1% of income levels. The average 25-29 year old males make about .05% (1/2000th) of an average NFL player (author estimate). If NFL players were compared to only the top 1% of all income levels, their arrests levels would, no doubt, skyrocket in comparison. Also, the NFL, their teams, and the players have the money to protect themselves legally, with professional mentoring, buddy assists, etc. Also, I confidently assume that less than ethical means are sometimes used to protect players through bribes, cover-ups, and turned heads.

The NFL doesn’t like bad actors either—to a degree! If a player gets in trouble but has marginal talent, he will likely be released, and quickly! However, if the player is popular or critical to the success of the team, or the NFL, he will get all the help he needs to minimize the situation. The NFL is not unlike other ‘families’, they protect their own in the interest of the family--until it’s no longer worth it to do so.

Can the NFL Negate a Poor Upbringing?

To me, it always comes back to the family. It doesn’t take a million dollar grant to learn that some of the best athletes come from unstable families. Look at Ray Rice. “Ray's father was gunned down in a drive-by shooting when he was 1 year old. Ten years later, his caretaking cousin and father figure died in a car crash.” He was raised on public assistance. This doesn’t make Ray Rice a bad guy, but his view of the world is different from many of us, even some of his NFL brethren.

Adrian Peterson also had serious family issues as a child. He lost his older brother at seven years of age after which his parents broke apart. When Adrian was 13, his father was arrested for laundering money for a crack-cocaine ring. Again, these facts were not any fault of Adrian Peterson, but he saw the world differently than if he had a responsible father to look up to. Jonathon Dwyer's childhood background has yet to be revealed, but I'm not expecting that his father mimicked the values of Bill Cosby.

Most likely, the lion’s share of arrests of NFL personnel involve those players who did not have solid family backgrounds. I can’t prove my theory of dysfunctional families regarding NFL players, but certainly the statistics prove that violence and ethical issues abound much more frequently in fatherless situations within the general public.

Even in the NFL, it’s all about the family. Just like parents that do not teach values nor punish digressions, the NFL has tacitly tolerated domestic violence as long as its flawed players benefit the NFL. The NFL is not responsible for the mindset of players entering their league, but it is the NFL’s responsibility to set standards and to enforce them! To some extent, they do. But it is clear to me that they pick and choose the standards and the punishment as it fits their needs, not with a blind eye for justice.

You will hear many praise the character and charity of tarnished NFL players. It’s not that they aren’t capable of doing good things. Many tarnished people do good things. In the book “The Godfather”, the main character did many good things. But he also took liberties in violent and/or unethical acts!

It (Almost) Always Goes Back to the Family

Yes. Pick any issue and I can find a way to bring it back to family, because so often, it is at least a factor. Money, fame, and preferred treatment does not change how these young men were raised. It just magnifies who they really are, whether that be good or bad. The responsible family shapes young men with purpose. Otherwise, they are molded with untrained and possibly immoral hands. 

The NFL family knowingly takes chances with flawed young men, and that is good. It provides them an opportunity to become great citizens. But the NFL must be responsible for player conduct by establishing clearer standards and limits on behavior--and following through with proper punishment when appropriate. After all, the NFL is their new family, as long as they are winners.

Slugg and Sara

I have a young, distant cousin who is an absolute genius. His IQ is stratospheric, but he is lazy and unmotivated to succeed at anything worthwhile. I’ll call him Slugg. Slugg does well in school without much effort, but is being misled by his success in school because it comes too easily. To be successful in life, Slugg will have to understand the need for improvements in his appearance, behavior, and social skills—about which he currently could not care less. He hangs out with others who have few, if any, standards. Intellectually, Slugg outclasses his peers, but when it comes to values, he is no better--and he will suffer for it if he doesn't change.

In another example, I recently read this on www.marcandangel.com.

“Two decades ago, when the bullies at our high school called her a nerd for being a virgin and a straight-A student, my best friend Sara smiled and confidently said, “Thank you.  I’m really proud of it.”  She honestly was.  What those bullies said never bothered her one bit”. 

The bullies that teased Sara were using ‘group-think’--believing they were avant-garde and rationalizing why their standards were not up to those of Sara. “Oh, she thinks she is ‘Miss Perfect’”, they might say. No! Girls like Sara don’t think they are perfect, they just have values. Those values guide young people to a better place than those without them. What happened to Sara twenty years ago still happens every day i.e., pressure to be what they don’t want to be. People have been known to pull others down to their standards to be absolved of their weaknesses.

Values protect your children

You can’t teach intellect to a child, but as a dad, or a mom, or an uncle, or grandparent, you can teach values. Values are the protective shield kids need to combat negative influences. Without this armor, they are vulnerable to all kinds of societal viruses. Ask yourself what values you teach to your children and are they sinking in? Sometimes your children are receptive to your values, sometimes they are not. Keep teaching those that are receptive. Keep on drilling those that aren't receptive, and never give in.

When one has values, there is usually someone rooting for them, or willing to give them a break. Whereas I would volunteer to help Sara to meet her goals, I would not have a desire to help my brilliant cousin Slugg. From Sara, I would expect cooperation. Her values and determination are more respected in the world than Slugg’s brain, infected with a lazy attitude. Too bad because his brain, harnessed with values and goals, could be invaluable.

I think part of my cousin’s issues are the fact that he was born to a socially irresponsible mother, and a father who has never had an interest in him. He lives with his grandmother who doesn't have the energy, or instinct for teaching basic values, nor does she have Slugg’s respect. Slugg needs to be pushed because he has no innate drive to succeed. He was never seriously challenged to do better and has no desire to strive for perfection. It’s a foreign concept to him, unless associated with achieving the highest level of a video game.

Appearance over values?

On the other side of the ledger are parents who want their children to be, or appear to be, perfect. Sometimes perfection is so desirable that values are ignored! How they get to the top in sports, academics, cheerleading, etc. is less important than making it. This can affect your children in very serious ways. Some kids will forever feel like failures for not measuring up to your very misplaced standards. Others will attempt to play the charade of perfection by any means necessary, which can require no respect for values. Perfection is a target, not a lifestyle. Having values, on the other hand, is a lifestyle--often a lifestyle that is not emphasized, or very difficult adhere to. It is a lifestyle that needs coaching.

You can protect your children by teaching them values and living those values as an example. Pick some of your favorite values below and be known for them, but don’t expect yourself, or your kids, to be perfect. That’s a value called forgiveness, or acceptance, or family, or love, or tolerance, or.........

Values to strive for, and to teach: (with some of my favorites in blue)

Acceptance, Accountability, Altruism, Ambition, Attentiveness, Awareness, Balance, Calmness, Charity, Charm, Commitment, Compassion, Competence, Competitiveness, Composure, Concentration, Confidence, Consciousness, Consistency, Control, Decisiveness, Dependability, Desire, Determination, Discipline, Education, Empathy, Encouragement, Enthusiasm, Ethics, Fairness, Family, Financial independence, Fitness, Flexibility, Focus, Forgiveness, Fortitude, Friendliness, Generosity, Gentleness, Giving, Grace, Gratitude, Happiness, Helpfulness, Honesty, Hopefulness, Hospitality, Humility, Humor, Imagination, Inspiration, Integrity, Joy, Kindness, Knowledge, Leadership, Learning, Love, Loyalty, Maturity, Modesty, Motivation, Open-mindedness, Optimism, Organization, Originality, Patience, Passion, Positive-attitude, Persistence, Poise, Proactivity, Professionalism, Reliability, Resilience, Resourcefulness, RespectResponsibility, Sacrifice, Self-control, Selflessness, Self-reliance, Self-respect, Sincerity, Strength, Sympathy, Thankfulness, Thoughtfulness, Timeliness, Trustworthiness, Tolerance, Virtue, Volunteering, Welcoming.
One of the perks of fatherhood is the well-earned joy of grand-fatherhood! This is especially true when your children have married strong partners and are both responsible parents. This allows you, as a grandparent, to enjoy your grandchildren--and for your grandchildren to enjoy you. When you know your grandkids are being taught discipline at home, you can concentrate on love, attention, and maybe a dose of spoiling. All children LOVE ‘love', attention, and acceptance! And all kids deserve to be special to someone. Grandparents fit the bill perfectly. 

I now have three grandchildren--two girls and one boy. You don’t know true joy until you have grandchildren!


This story is about Malia, the oldest. She will turn six next week and is the most precious and precocious child I have ever known. At 18 months old, Malia could recite the entire ABC’s  and spoke in complete sentences. Around that time, I was showing her some fun things on my smartphone while babysitting. She grabbed it and started investigating the top, bottom, and all around. Without looking at me she said, "What's in there Papa...what's in there Papa?"

One day, just before her second birthday, we were watching a kid’s movie about dogs. In one scene, the dogs were running away from some danger in the middle of the night. Malia looked up at me and asked, “Papa, are those dogs nocturnal?” I was a little stunned, got on my smart phone and looked it up, then I answered, “I guess they are.”

Her attention to detail and her memory are spot on. I never question her version of things. Not after I came to the realization that her version was always right. I'll tell her "we haven't read this book". She'll then tell me when we read it and what the book is about. Once we were driving in an unfamiliar area. Malia, looking backwards from her toddler car seat and still in diapers said, “This is the way to Lilly’s house.” My wife and I looked at each other and smiled. Later on, we found out from her parents that it was the way to Lilly’s house. 

Her talent at manipulation is extraordinary. Mind games come naturally to Malia and using me as her pawn is literally child’s play. Once, as her grandmother and I were driving her home after a visit with her great Grandma Smith, she asked if we could get more toys for her playhouse --which was an old tool shed I had converted at my farmhouse. We asked her why she wanted more toys. Malia responded that she wanted more toys so her friends would have more things to play with. We told her how nice it was to think of her friends. 

Malia rarely comes straight out to ask for something, e.g. she will offer, “It's hot outside. Do you want some ice cream?” She very good about sharing, but when I cut something in half to share, Malia carefully studies each half as if it were the wings of a fairy princess, then chooses what she has determined is the larger one. I learned over time to make one half a little larger. It speeds up the sharing process.

Four days before her third birthday, I took her out to lunch. Literally to the waitress she said, "I'll have a strawberry Italian soda with a splash of cream please. Oh! And a grilled cheese!" I did not prep her for that. It came out of nowhere.

She is constantly teaching me things I don’t know. She explained to me the difference between a bee and a hornet. I didn't even ask. She speaks a little German because her dad is fluent. I recently said “wunderbar” to her to show off a little. She told me, “That’s not how you pronounce it.” Malia claimed I had said ‘Thunderball’. “Yes it is”,  I said confidently. Her response was, “Well, I know it’s not pronounced like that in Swiss-German.” 

If it sounds like she’s a ‘smarty-pants’, it’s not really like that with her. She is just precise about everything she has ever learned. If I say something is red, she’ll say it’s really more like orange-and she will be correct. When she watches TV, which isn’t often, she is mesmerized in concentration. You could do the hokey-pokey in front of her and she wouldn't see you. She knows “The Sound of Music” by heart and the names of all the Von Trapp kids.  Here recall for any movie, book, or outing is faultless.

Malia loves to sing and dance. She’s a little afraid of putting her face under water. She has a love of books, drawing, and pretending. Malia loves to pretend! We have played mermaids (my favorite). I've been a little brother, a princess, and a tea party companion. When I've added my two cents to the drama, Malia always said, "No, that's not right." She had total control of the plot. I really didn't like pretending. But I loved pretending for her.

While never hesitating to correct my mistakes, Malia also gives the tightest hugs, has the biggest smiles, and loves to hold my hand and skip. She often runs to meet me when I come over to visit. Sometimes when we are together, alone, or with her family, she will come up to me and silently climb on my lap, her curly blond hair tickling my nose. We have a connection that melts my heart. 
As her grandparents, Malia had our full attention for four years. Then her cousin and baby sister came along within nine months of each other. Malia has shown very little, if any, jealousy. She is wonderfully loving with both of them.  Her pre-school teacher told us she is a peace-maker and is very sociable with all kids. Whenever I picked her up from pre-school, she always hugged her friends before leaving.  When kids don’t reciprocate her friendliness, her feelings get hurt.

She is a sponge! If I use a word Malia doesn't know ( a rare occurance), she’ll always ask what it means and I will define it. Once I said I was famished. She immediately asked me, "What does famished mean?" The next time I saw her,  she told me she was famished.  

 She remembers every person she has ever met, especially kids, by name and what they did together, even if was two years ago. And socially aware? Malia scolds me if I eat a piece of fruit without washing it. When I put her seatbelt on, she tells me to make sure it is tight. Since she was tiny, she warned me to stop when the traffic light turns yellow. And she reads speed limit signs and asks if I am speeding or not. “Go fast but not faster than the speed limit!” --she'll tell me when wanting to get somewhere quickly.

The ‘coup de grace’ came when she recently said to me, “You know what Papa?” 

“No, what?” I responded.

“Everything you ever told me--I already knew.”

My ego was crushed (not really). Her mom and dad are always teaching her things about nature, etc.. I'm more just for fun. I tried to think of something that I had taught her--proving what a force of good I have been in her life.

I asked, “Didn’t I tell you what ‘famished’ meant?" 

Silence! I had her! She was quiet, then stumbled trying to get out of it. She hates to be wrong.  I had conquered this five-year-old, finally! She remembered that little jewel of knowledge I had taught her.

I had been concerned, before my other two grandchildren came along. How could I possibly love them as much as Malia? Well, it turns out that was just silly. They are all special in their own ways and loving them is as easy as falling off a boat and getting wet. Ryan is my buddy at 20 months. We both love trucks, cars, and airplanes. He loves to ride on my lawn tractor, play with my keys, and pretend to drive my truck. Rosie, who is 11 months, is my sweet addiction. She has a ready smile, very rosy cheeks, chubby legs, and half-moon eyes. She grins and waves to everyone as she happily coos. I cannot get near her without picking her up and dancing with her.  She snuggles right in. More about Ryan and Rosie later!

Yes, this grandparent thing is pretty special! Your grandchildren’s happiness depends very much on how you raised their mom or dad.  Happiness and love, like Malia’s brown eyes, can be passed down, generation to generation.


What we really want to believe, are often those things that make life easier for us. Those things that tell us there is a shortcut in life. The things that validate the reasons for our lack of accomplishment. We want to believe the success of others came about by luck or manipulation. We raise our cup to those that say what we want to hear when we are too busy to research it ourselves. We sneer at those we disagree with us for the same reason.

This article is not directly about my usual topic--fatherhood. But the issues discussed abound in fatherhood—how we raise our children, what we teach them, what we fear, how we mold them to be just like us, or cause them to be the opposite of us, and how we apologize to them. We are products of our upbringing and our children will be the products of your upbringing.

We are not taught to be biased, but what we are taught creates bias

There is no way to eliminate bias. It’s who we are, and those biases aren't always liabilities. Before we believe what we want to believe, we are taught what to believe. If a boy from Wisconsin is adopted by a couple from Chicago, he’ll likely grow up rooting for the Bears and against the Green Bay Packers. Jews raise Jews. Those who believe in Islam, raise their children to believe in Islam. Catholics raise Christians. Children of agnostics tend to raise agnostic children. We want to believe our heritage as sacrosanct. Beyond that, it is easier to believe what we are taught. Just ask any anyone who has challenged their family or religion by a contradictory lifestyle.

I am just as guilty as anyone. I too, believe what I want to believe, but I also have an awareness. I am aware of my bias and therefore try to consider the other side. My mind is not often changed, but I may have a more sympathetic view of an opposing thought. That alone, a more sympathetic view from both sides of an issue, would work miracles in reducing hate, and improving cooperation.

Bias in society

Let’s face it, one of the reasons the world is screwed up in so many ways is because we human beings are not sympathetic to the viewpoints of others. We rally around like-thinking people to air our complaints--but we rarely air competing views when we feel alone or outnumbered. Only the brave speak out when it is not politically correct for them to do so. Being brave, however, is not enough. You must have facts, an open mind, and not be emotional.

Among the brave is the young white college girl, marching with a majority of Blacks to protest unfair treatment of Blacks by police. Does she have unbiased evidence, an open mind, or has she been taught to feel guilty because she feels ‘privileged’? Also among the brave is Dr. Ben Carson, a Black man who escaped the ghetto to be a successful surgeon. He believes Blacks could better themselves by taking responsibility for the state of their lives and families, and to stop blaming others. Does Dr. Carson have the facts, an open mind, or is he unsympathetic to the historical plight of Black community of which he is a member? Both are speaking out of--what would be conceived as--their natural comfort zone.

It’s good when we can understand the other side of an issue, or hear it from someone who doesn't have an ax to grind. It could be both sides are right depending on where the shadows fall. As I have mentioned, most of us are taught what to believe by parents, friends, teachers, religion, the media, mentors, etc. My advice is to listen to them, but challenge them also--not necessarily directly, but in your own mind. To have biases is human, but bias is a leaning. Bias shouldn't be an immovable position anchored permanently with cement.

Examples of bias

We are biased within our head, within our family, within our community (political, race, country, sex, etc.), and within our religion. The only place where bias is accepted and understandable is sports. Bias in sports is for competition, fun, bragging rights, and escape. The most dangerous place where bias exists seems to be in religion. We've seen it over the centuries and we are seeing it, tragically in the Middle East, today! But blind bias is harmful whenever and wherever it exists. You can find various examples of bias here.

Bias exists even with reasonable people. Bias is most dangerous, however, with unreasonable people. You can not reason with some people any more than you can dribble a deflated basketball. At least you can inflate a basketball. Everyone wants to be on the ‘right’ side, but not everyone wants to be on the side of the truth. Being on the ‘right’ side is comfortable because it is right for you. Being on the side of truth, however, can be very painful. Sometimes too painful to bear!

My bias, until convinced otherwise

I believe our societal issues are not schools (bias: blame teachers), not race (bias: blame the other race), not crime (bias: blame the economy), not the economy (bias: blame politics). Those are symptoms of the real issue--the breakdown of the family. That’s what I want to believe. That’s my bias, not because I was taught it, not because it is easy, but because every issue points to it. Involved families would create better schools. The worst schools are in the worst neighborhoods. The worst neighborhoods have the worst economy. The worst economic areas have the most crime. The worst areas for criminal activity have the least effective families. The least effective families most likely do not have an involved father in the home.  This is why I write about fatherhood.


I am very hopeful that open-minded thinking will grow. The kind of thinking that gets to the root of an issue, not the convenient biases people like to use. This is difficult to believe at times because closed-minded people have voices that are loud, angry, and demanding. You notice them, and sometimes you fear them. Fear is one of their tools, used in place of logic. When we hear loud voices, it’s often the sound of insecurity. Confident people are usually quiet people.

Bias will continue but, with open-minded, sympathetic thinking, we can normalize the biases that exist. This, more than anything, takes education and the leadership of fair-minded people, not hate mongers. It can be difficult to be persuaded to an unfamiliar way of thinking. However, it is easier for us all if we ‘live and let live’ when no one is harmed by an alternative view.

Bias is a story you tell about yourself--or a story told by anyone. Really courageous people admit when they are wrong. I haven’t always been courageous, but I want to believe that I’m working on it.


I fully support the 

National Fatherhood Initiative. (NFI). 

They are the "go to" place to see:
why fatherhood matters! ......


Occasionally, I will submit articles to the the NFI blog called, The Father Factor. You can click on it to read it.......


My latest contribution is called,
Never Forget, You're a Father! 
You can click on it also.

It's some thoughts for you to consider that may help you to remember how much your children need you!


“Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.” 
- Terri Guillemets

When I was about twelve years old, I was visiting my paternal grandmother in the small rural town where she lived. She was widowed when I was two years old after my grandfather had died of sclerosis of the liver. She was tough, having raised 6 boys and one girl while she and my grandfather operated a rough and tumble bar. I think using the term “raised” may be generous.

My father and grandmother were close in a strange way. He would stay with her after long trips at sea as a merchant marine. He was a hard drinker like my grandfather had been, and my grandmother tolerated him as she had done with her husband and the men who were patrons of their bar. The fact that my dad gave her some of his sea duty money ensured him a place to land between jobs. He had not lived with us for a few years.

I asked my grandmother why she let my father stay with her since he was almost always drunk. She said she was used to simple men like him. I asked her what she meant by simple men, although I'm certain that was not the term she usually used. She said all simple men want to do is drink, gamble, and whore around.

Simple or Ignorant?

Looking back on this conversation, I think ‘simple men’ was too simple of a description--an adjective or two is missing. A better description may be a ‘simple-minded’ men, or a ‘simply-selfish’ men, especially since many of the simple men in my grandmother’s bar were married with children, or at least had children.

Why did they act this way?  One simple reason, for many--it was all they knew, all they ever saw. Their own fathers may not have shown them much attention, but they still hungered for it and some thought following the lead of their fathers was a connection to them. Having goals was a foreign idea from generation to generation. The closest thing to a goal would be instant gratification. In these men’s lives, there were few who would bother to challenge this type of behavior. Those who tried became worn down.

Certainly, this would not be the kind of man who would be an example for a young person to follow, yet his example is followed. To drink, gamble and whore is somewhat appealing to an impressionable young man without alternatives. It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s even dangerous which makes it more exciting. If that’s all an impressionable young man sees, then to do otherwise would be foolish in their gullible minds.

A simple man thinks little beyond the world in which he exists. He’s been indoctrinated to take advantage of others because he’s been taught that those who allow it are fools and deserve it. It’s a lesson your father and possibly his father have passed on to you. Why upset the apple cart? Why dare to be better? To do more would bring a wrath of criticism from buddies. The women they live with may not like it, but they expect it and have always put up with it.

Certainly many men surrounded by this nonsense break away from it, but too many do not. Habit, conditioning, and custom are tough to break away from, especially when you are free of concern, responsibility, or guilt. A simple man doesn’t know how to balance his many responsibilities nor does he care to accept any. A simple man has no problems--beyond getting out of his own way, his own mess.

A good father is not a simple man

A good father is anything but a simple man. He takes time to relate to his children even though he spends many hours working to provide for them. A simple man would not understand the power of a modest smile or pat on the back. Nor would a simple man take time to listen to his children or encourage their interests, even if they aren’t his interests.

Some say a simple man is one who doesn’t need much and asks for little. But that is not a simple man. That’s a contented man. Contented men are often multifaceted and very accomplished. Accomplishment is a necessary facet in contentment, having met challenges and conquering them. Accomplished men breed more accomplished men.

A simple man is not burdened by the needs of a loving family, or a happy wife, or the success of a child. They are simply out for themselves. Simple men breed more simple men. Unless a son breaks the mold, unless he doesn’t ‘quote his father, in words and in deeds’, simple men can continue for generations.

It’s a simple truth!

Fathers have an enormous advantage over just about any other category of people. Even many mothers would agree with this claim. To be accepted, all dads have to do, is to be there. To be loved, all they have to do is smile and care. To be revered, all they have to do is support and encourage. A dad doesn’t need to be anyone but himself. He doesn’t have to be the same as the dad next door. He just has to be available--physically and mentally. Yet too many men fail to be contributing fathers!

In a allegorical sense, fathers are rain while mothers are soil. We notice the rain more than the soil. When it gently rains on a field of corn, it is something for which we are thankful. When the rain becomes a deluge and doesn’t let up, damage can occur. The rain or lack of rain is usually noticed. But where crops are grown, the soil is quietly there, usually full of nutrients, but not as noticed.

An excellent book for all men with daughters is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D., a pediatrician who is an expert on treatment of adolescents with medical and social problems. She writes:

“I have watched daughters talk to their fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They may take their mother for granted, but not you. They light up — or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They wait for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration — or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.”

With boys, their fathers are the example that their sons look to when they are learning to be men. In his book, Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity Dr. Frank Pittman states,

There was no secret to fathering, no magical answers about masculinity that are passed on from generation to generation. Boys learn to be men by being with their fathers, experiencing the world and living life. But if they haven’t had that experience, they may never feel comfortable with an awareness of what it means to be a man, what they are supposed to do with their masculinity, and how they can become fathers themselves.”[J1] [MS2] 

Of course, mothers have been the standard bearer for parenting. They have shown to be the more reliable and nurturing parent over the course of history. But mothers and fathers have different roles, often characterized by the steady hand of the mother and the stimulation of the father.

Both the soil and rain are needed for the fields of corn to thrive. The roots of their stalks are in the soil--but they thirst for the rain. So it is with children, who depend on roots and thrive on nourishment. It is good for the family when parents have different strengths because children have various needs that can vary from child to child.

When rain is not sufficient, crops will not flourish. When the soil has little or no nutrients, rain will have little impact on the crops being healthy. When fatherly attention is lacking or motherly love is weak, children are at high risk for trouble or failure. When both situations exist, a child’s future is tragically burdened with predictably bad results.

Of course the metaphor is not perfect. Parental roles and family outcomes are not set in stone. But both parents are critical factors in the mental and physical health of their families. Fathers mustn’t waste the advantage they naturally have with their daughters and sons. They want your attention and need your positive influence. Having happy children grow into responsible adults will likely be your greatest contribution to society.  

May your crops be healthy and bountiful!

When surrounded by good people, a child will very likely become a good citizen--if they listen and learn. When that support is missing,  a child will fail--unless they have... grit!

The Silent Hand

For every successful person, there are those behind the scenes that helped that person along their way. They are often the silent hands that lifts a person’s chin up, keeping eyes focused. Encouragement, lessons, advice, or just a smile can be the key to someone’s success. Most often, the person best suited to be the silent hand--is a mom and/or a dad.

Credit is still due to the one who listened and learned because many do not succeed even when helped. Supportive families have their share of lost children because of a myriad of reasons, (drugs use, rebellion, outside influences, etc), all of which can result in children who do not respect or believe what they hear from their true mentors.

Sometimes it takes grit!

Lastly are those who, lacking someone to look up to, put on their spurs and 'cowboy up' to take charge of their lives when encouragement is as common as cool water in the desert. That's what I call 'grit', and those that have it eventually find their silent hand, anxious and willing to help.

I am reminded of all those that helped me, from the elderly couple that praised me for my efforts learning to ice skate, to the high school counselor who helped me get a college scholarship. Of course, my mother deserves credit for showing me love, feeding me and putting a roof over my head during very stressful times, especially for her. My wife Kathy pulled me through my early adult years, years when I was so naive, unsure of myself, and clumsy (I'm still clumsy). She kept me on track and I thank her for that. I got out of a bad situation, but I needed their help, and the help of many others. 

I do not claim to be a successful person in some glamorous or heroic way. No, I am successful for taking what was handed to me and making something more out of it. That is the only kind of success we can ask or hope for. That kind of success is made possible by taking advice--and using it, while adjusting it to your situation. We are often quick to blame others for our failures but slow to give a nod to anyone who gave us a push in the right direction. My high school counselor couldn't have helped me had I not the 'grit' to put my nose in the books. My wife would not have stayed with me had she not seen my determination. Grit will call out the silent hand!

Cooperation is key

If I may use a few metaphors. We notice the apple falling from the tree, but we forget--except Isaac Newton--that gravity made it possible. We see a sail billowing and give it all the credit for propelling the boat, but the sail is useless without the breezes it captures. We appreciate the rain when it nourishes our crops, but the soil is always there for us, relatively unnoticed.

Still credit goes also to the doer. The apple falls but it also held on until ripe. The sail billows only because it is strong enough to withstand the stress of the breezes. The soil must have sufficient nutrients or the crops will still fail, rain or not. So it is with us and our children. It takes both a community of helpers, and an individual that will listen and learn, and maybe have some grit, to make a success story. 

When success loses

Success stories are rare when either the community of helpers does not exist, or the individual fails to take advantage of the help. To be successful when one or the other is missing takes enormous energy. For a young man to climb out of a fatherless home in a crime ridden neighborhood to be a success--is an almost miraculous feat requiring enormous grit. Not only is help difficult to find for him, but forces that would pull him down to the gutter are rampant. He must struggle mightily to find his way out and too few do so. In the opposite situation, a young man will fall far short of his potential when he has all the advantages which would seem to make success obtainable, but fails to use some or all of them.

The first example of no support is a situational tragedy that takes tremendous spirit and grit to escape. The second example of a lost child is a spiritual tragedy that requires an inordinate amount of tireless and selfless assistance from friends and loved ones attempting to correct their attitude or internal issues.  

A family is the perfect community to help young people succeed

A self-driven young person with a supportive family would have an atmosphere of encouragement and cooperation to help pave the way to success. However, a young person who seems lost, lazy, or defiant will need a supportive family even more so. Not supportive in accepting their negative characteristics, but supportive in getting them psychological help, or supportive in demanding better from them, and/or supportive in an encouraging, caring way. When those things fail to help, then the negative consequences they have brought upon themselves must be experienced to the fullest. The silent hand is not there to be shunned. The family community must relent when it is evident their help is not working.

We all fail and there are two types of failures. One type fails by trying and the other type fails by not trying. The first type will be helped--with the admiration of the community--to become stronger. The second type will be helped—with the compassion of the community—but will become weaker. They will survive, barely, on the patience and pity of others.


When the silent, lifting hand of a strong family does not exist, it will take a strong individual to break through and achieve success. Escaping to success from a non-supportive family is a gift to society as much as it is a blessing to the escapee. Support, wherever you find it, is key! But support has limits and must stop when it is forever fruitless. My heart goes out to both, the family strong enough to stop the feeding the endless ne’er-do-wells, and to those who succeed with grit from little or nothing. It takes so much energy and patience to be a good and contributing citizen, also called a success. And that's what makes it special!

The perceived truth is always in the eyes of the beholder. The factual truth sometimes has to be painstakingly excavated like an ancient pharaoh’s tomb. This article is a follow up to my previous article, The REAL Problem in Ferguson and America!

Things in Ferguson have progressed from a terrible incident that needed a thorough formal review, to a reasonable protest for justice that some assumed would not happen, to an unreasonable call for quick justice based on what people chose to believe, to violent protests and looting from opportunist who really didn’t care about Michael Brown, to other opportunists who sought to sell their brand, to anarchists and professional agitators from around the country enticed by the stage, the bright lights,  and provocation of the  media.

Racial divide is often the blame. It is my contention, however, that race is not the real issue here—broken families are! In recent times, race was THE issue when justice was questioned regarding Blacks, so it is difficult to get away from it. Certainly race has a place because statistics show Blacks have more chronic family issues; and not enough Blacks are represented in law enforcement for reasons that include a lack of interest, qualifications, and prejudice.

It is a lazy person who will not go through, or wait for, the proper process to find answers. Answers to questions are too often assumed, too often slanted, and too often rushed. The reason  issues are often not resolved, is because the wrong questions are asked, or the right questions don’t go deep enough!

The following process is what must happen to get to the root of any issue. Not but a handful of people in the night streets of Ferguson care about what I am about to suggest or explain. That is part of the problem! I hope you can have patience and follow me through to conclusion.

In engineering, when something goes terribly wrong, the cause is analyzed with something called the “5- Why Analysis”. Here is a simplistic example:

Problem: An Airplane Crashes

Why 1:  Why did it crash?  
Answer 1:  The wing broke off.

Why 2:  Why did the wing break off? 
Answer #2;  The supporting beam failed.

Why 3:  Why did the beam fail? 
Answer 3:  It had a structural flaw that cracked because of vibrations.

Why 4:  Why did it have a structural flaw? 
Answer 4:  While the wing design was good, the beam material was bad.

Why 5:  Why was the material bad? 
Answer 5  Because the tests used to look for flaws were not designed or performed properly.

Solution: Correct material tests to find all known possible flaws or correct the process of performing the tests.
Note that the root cause was not that the wing fell off!

To get to the root cause of an issue, you must drill down from general questions to specific questions. Here is a more specific and timely example.

Why 1; Why is violence and looting almost always in poor neighborhoods?
Ans 1:  Because clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent.

Why 2; Why are clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent?
Ans 2: Because there is more crime and there is more suspicion between citizens and authorities.

Why 3: Why is there more crime and suspicion?
Ans 3: Because education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority is not respected. (And authority is not always perfect, causing suspicion, which could be another 5-Why analysis.)

Why 4: Why are education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority not respected?
Ans 4: Because it is not an area with a large base of strong families.

Why 5: Why is this an area without a large base of strong families?
Ans 5: Because less than 30% (example) have fathers in the home to help guide young men and women.

Solution: Devise programs that will provide encouragement, incentive, and training to allow men to be a larger part of raising their children!

In this analysis, the Ferguson ‘unrest’ issue is not about race--it’s about the struggles of the family! I would have no hesitation whatsoever to walk in a Black neighborhood with a large base of strong families at 2 AM . Nor would I likely walk at 2 AM in a white neighborhood without a large base of strong families.

The fault lies with both the police and the community. Assumptions are made that are often wrong! And, unfortunately, the violent acts and images of a few Black men, magnified by media coverage, understandably frighten many--and unfairly tarnish all Black men.

Certainly race is a peripheral issue because there are few Black fathers in the home, resulting in a poor social and often violent upbringing. Subsequently, the profiling will be projected unto the innocent--who look, or act in some ways, like the perpetrators! There are many secondary causes for all of the troubles between police and the Black community. But the root cause is the lack of fatherhood/mentors in Black communities, which is chronically more prevalent than in other racial groups. Only 28% of Black families include two-parents as compared to 70% in white families. If that number was reversed, then it would be white kids having the majority of issues with police.

My opinions will not be accepted by many in the Black or more liberal community. It is up to Black leaders to fix troubled Black youth caused by a lack of good role models. Only the brave jump in, with both feet, to resolve the family issue in any ethnic group. Solve the fatherless family issue and I would predict a much brighter future for all and--much less looting and violence!



    Mike Smith


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