Monday, January 25, 2016

Remembering Dad, #12: He Encouraged a Positive Outlook

I don’t know if Dad ever read the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He really didn’t need to.

Dad promoted the idea and the practice of not complaining, not saying nasty things about people---even if they deserved it. Perhaps he felt no one deserved to be maligned, calumniated, defamed, slandered or libeled. I guess that covers the territory of all the badness one can do or say to or about others. Oh, and yes, I did forget negative criticism and gossip.

He had his ways of enforcing that outlook on his children. In my case, when I attempted to complain, he gave me “the look.” It was a tacit message to “say no more.” There were boundaries, and I had stepped over one of them. So I learned early not to complain---at least not in my dad’s presence. Perhaps that sounds harsh to say this type of behavior was enforced. I would say it was strict, not harsh. What he did was provide a strong guidance for developing virtue---as in good habits.

When Dad, on occasion, took us for a tasty treat to the Mayflower Doughnut Shoppe in Chicago, he made it a point to direct our attention to the large, colorful, wall poster that depicted a rotund baker stooping over to offer a little fellow a doughnut. The baker also offered the urchin this piece of advice: “As you ramble on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, not upon the hole.” Dad engaged us in conversation. “What do you think that means?” Through involving us in a discussion he was able to capture our interest and make us think.

Here he emphasized finding the good rather than the fault in other people and in life’s situations. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody.” Don't take this to mean that Dad overlooked or didn't see the bad in some people. He just didn't talk about it, harp on it, or, in general, discuss it.

Now you may wonder, did my dad live up to these ideals? I would say he did. In fact, I would say he did so more than the average person. And I wish my track record were as good as his.

Don't you think the world would be a better place if all of us held our tongue and tried to bring out what is good in others?

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