Sunday, March 1, 2009
WHAT I BELIEVE
At this time in my life it is important to take stock of my beliefs. We as members of a Western Civilization, share a culture. My culture is that of a lifelong Catholic. That entails a lot of things but most importantly it forms my beliefs. I grew up a Catholic, but that is more important than it sounds. My Catholicism was my life. I say that because my friends, my activities as a child, and my education were Catholic. The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) accounted for my experience with sports. Now you may ask yourself what's important about that. Well, sports was central to my life. I played basketball, baseball, and football from the time I could walk. I got pretty good at all of them.
My youth was spent playing these games with my friends. I formed bonds with them that were nearly as strong as my family. My parents and all my friends' parents watched us play games as long as I can remember. It was very important to all of our families to achieve. I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood of working fathers. They desperately wanted us to have a better life than they had. There wasn't a lot of money but there was a lot of parenting. If I did something wrong up the block, I could count on my friends' parents setting me straight. I got more than one spanking from my friends' parents and they got more than one from mine.
Catholic schools weren't cheap and my parents were strapped to keep my brothers and me in school. Public school was out of the question. When I was twelve I got a paper route. It had to be in the morning because I had to play sports. The papers came at about 4 AM. I slept in the room closest to the front door and I sprang out of bed (slowly) every morning. I delivered the papers with my dog, Lucky, and got back to bed about 5:15 AM. He was tired and so was I. I used the money to help pay for school and all the extras, i.e. varsity jacket and sweater, class ring, prom, etc.
Now I need to tell a story here, so bear with me. One morning it was raining like crazy. I didn't want to pedal around in the deluge, so I thought, maybe dad will drive me around in his new Ford Falcon. I gently knocked on the door of my parents' room and my dad answered. He listened to my pitch about the rain with patience considering it was about 4 AM. Then he said to me "Son, I have to get up later this morning to go to my job. I won't ask you to go to my job, so don't ask me to go to yours." That taught me that I had to do my job. It was my responsibility and no one else's. A great life lesson taught by a man who was raised in an orphanage.
I tell you all this because I sincerely believe that we are shaped by our life experiences. I became a cop because I thought it was important to try to make the community better. I went in the service because I thought it was the right thing to do. I was taught by my parents that people do things because they are supposed to. Good people do the things because it is right. Not for personal gain, but because it is right. That's what Americans do. My grandfather went war in the WWI, my dad in Korea, me in Vietnam. It was what Americans do, because it's the right thing to do. Neither of my parents had much formal education, but they understood that they and their children were fortunate to be Americans and with that came responsibility. If I remember one lesson from my parents it was this: To be an American is a responsibility.
My mother's parents were German. She learned to speak German before she learned English. She remembers that she and her friends from the German neighborhood were made fun of because of their accented English. She fondly remembers a comic strip called the Katzenjammer Kids because she was embarassed about her speech.
Her parents taught her that nobody owed them anything. They earned everything with hard work. That's what it takes to succeed. My grandfather's dad died when he was 13. He didn't have an education but my mother said he read incessantly. He made his children read incessantly. My mother can still recite passages from books that her father made her read and quizzed her on everyday. We are losing that drive to succeed. Where will we end up next?
That's installment one. I want to talk about religion next. Thanks for reading this.