Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Things My Father Taught Me

I am, by nature, a very private person.  I don't broadcast the most intimate details of my life because it seems inappropriate and frankly a bit tacky.  I have secrets.  Things that are mine and I plan on keeping them that way.  I'm always, still, surprised when I see people tell everyone everything about themselves ever. But I'm even more surprised when I see them tell everything about someone else.

Now, I'm not talking about gossip or backstabbing or slander.  Those are separate issues.  

I'm talking about those moments in peoples lives that are not and should not be treated as a spectator sport. Personal things.  Big news, tragedy, heartbreak, loss, ailment, intimacy, triumphs over obstacles, etc.  I'm not saying no one should share these things about their lives, that would be ridiculous.  What I've noticed is the blatant and boisterous announcement of news that belongs to others.

I don't get it.  But I think that has more to do with watching how my parents handled things like that.  And how they still handle things like that.  

There's a reason that my mom or my dad gets called first when tragedy strikes someone.  A trust has been earned.  A stalwart resistance against the curiosity of the world.  They're first instinct is to protect and serve.  Their circle is small, the information tightly controlled.  I can't even tell you how many times or nights they've spent in hospitals, on roadsides, in stranger's homes, traveling across the country. 

They have no desire to attract attention.  I think that if they did accidentally attract attention, they would consider their mission a failure.

Part of what they do is give the power to the person it belongs to.  If it's good news, then they should be the ones telling it.  If it's sad or awful or the worst thing ever, they should be allowed to reveal those things in their own way and in their own time. 

I remember asking my father once, during my rebellious youth, why he didn't want people to know what he had just done for someone.  I'd gone with him to help someone stranded. My father has been, and always will be, a Jedi mechanic.  I have no idea what he did to fix this car specifically.  I just knew that he had a skill set that was needed in that moment and he'd done just that.  

We were driving home and he was very quiet before he said something that stuck with me.  "That's not why I did it."

It seemed like such a simple answer.  But I never forgot it.  And it repeats in my head every time I see or hear someone declare something they've done for someone else.  I think, "Is that why?  So you felt justified in talking about it?  So that you were the focal point of this moment?"

It's a lesson I learned well.  I find myself doing the same thing.  Shying away from letting others know how much I know about an event or a person.  It's become second nature to me.  I don't just protect my own secrets, I protect the secrets of others as well.

I can promise you, I have been witness to events that you will never hear about.  I have seen the best of humanity in the most private and secret of places.  I have watched my mother be the most amazing and admirable woman I will ever know.  I have watched my father display the exact characteristics that make me proud to be one of his children.

I've learned that to declare yourself as part of someone's life changing event, you put the focus on yourself.  Is that appropriate?  Did you earn that position?  Or did the person whose life you just took a moment of credit for, make the mistake of trusting you to just be there for them? Are you doing good with your very loud words?

Maybe I was raised in a weird way.  Maybe my parents taught me to be more private than your average bear.  Maybe it's bizarre to you, looking from the outside in, as to why I would hold my tongue and keep things to myself.

Or maybe, just maybe, they taught me something invaluable.  Something I will never forget... How to keep it secret and keep it safe.