CHAPTER 1: In the Beginning
Don’t worry, you won’t be reading about my beginning years in any detail. But, I do want to describe the Judeo-Christian culture and principles that shaped me. I grew up in 1950s America when there was a prevailing Judeo-Christian culture, where individuals were expected to act responsibly in a morally right way because this was the expected cultural reality for personal conduct.
All the neighborhood kids had parents who taught their own kids these 3Rs: Responsibility, Reality, Right morals. Parents also made sure other kids in the neighborhood were developing these 3Rs or very similar variations, so their own kids would not be badly influenced.
These 3Rs were so prevalent in society that elementary age children could walk or bicycle to and from school (even in the dark) without fear of being kid-knapped or molested.
What Did Dad and Mom Teach Us?
Mom and Dad always told us how they were blessed with three children and made sacrifices so our lives would be better than theirs. I am the first born and only son, so they placed great hopes on me, including much responsibility to “look after your younger sisters” and “set a good example for them.” And I did. This is likely how I developed the mindset to Be “good enough” (have positive thoughts about my “bratty” little sisters) and Behave “good enough” (don’t tease them; show them what to do) in order to Become a “good” brother to Sue and Viv – and Become a “good son” to my parents.
In fact, all three of us Became “good children” by Being and Behaving in the ways Dad and Mom taught us. They made sure of this. For example:
Dad taught us: If you start something, complete it. Mom encouraged us to be finishers. That’s how we became results-oriented, especially me as the oldest and first-born role model.
Dad taught us: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Mom encouraged our best efforts. Before we left the house to do anything (e.g., go to church; go to school; play sports;) they said: Do Us Proud. They wanted us to do our best, so this reflected positively on them as our parents and pleased God.
Dad taught us: Fish or cut bait. Mom listened as we figured out what to do. So, we learned to make decisions and stick to them, instead of being double-minded or flip-flopping.
Dad taught us: A person’s word is his bond. Mom and Dad both demonstrated this by keeping their promises to us.
Dad taught us: Fulfill responsibilities you take on. Mom role modeled this as a mother and homemaker while Dad did this as a father and provider.
Dad taught me to Treat all females as Ladies and taught my sisters to Act like Ladies. Mom required this from us and Dad enforced it, if you know what I mean. I still enjoy opening doors for Ladies.
Dad and Mom taught us: Treat others as you’d want them to treat you. I witnessed Dad role modeling his Golden Rule of Business with his employees, customers, and the sales reps who serviced the A&P Grocery Store he managed for over twenty years.
Dad hired me to work as “summer relief” when his regular employees “took vacation” because he knew I would implement what he had taught me. After witnessing how he treated everyone at work, I understood why his A&P store was the highest grossest A&P Grocery Store in Virginia. My Dad had learned the Protestant Work Ethic of disciplined, hard work to help his family survive during the Great Depression because his father was often out of work. Because Dad knew this Work Ethic worked – achieved goals and produced results – he role modeled this for his three children – every day, 24/7.
Dad ensured I developed this same Work Ethic by having me deliver morning newspapers (like him and his brother Jay, my favorite uncle). Over a six-year period (ages 12-18), I got up every morning at 4:30 (except Sundays) to deliver The Virginian Pilot to my customers.
I estimate putting some 400,000 newspapers on customer’s porches each morning, or behind their screen doors during inclement weather. I had to complete this by 6am because most of my customers left home at 6am to go to work at the Naval Operations Base in Norfolk, Virginia. I could “sleep in” until 6am on Sundays, but had to make sure I finished delivering over 200 newspapers so I returned home in time to shower, eat breakfast, and attend 9 o’clock Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Dad’s father and mother taught him, and he in turn, taught us as I’ve described above. Grandma Gray had a lasting impact on her five grandchildren and on many others because she provided a constant Christian witness for everyone to emulate.
Grandma Gray’s mother died when she was a teenager. As the oldest child of 12, she reared her younger siblings. She must have done an excellent job because I never heard any of them, nor their children, say anything negative about her. They all became Christians because of her Christian witness to them. These family members have held a Family Reunion every May (called “Third Sunday”) for over 60 years to celebrate Grandma Gray’s impact – even now, some thirty years after she left this earth to be with Jesus in heaven.
Grandma’s Christian witness influenced her five grandchildren in three impactful ways:
Above all, Grandma lived to fulfill God’s Purpose for her. We observed her consistent role model in all aspects of her life. She exhibited joy, peace, and contentment that God would provide what she needed – because He always had during the Great Depression and afterward. Her 20-20 hindsight gave her 20-20 foresight to trust in Jesus until she passed away at 102.
She read her Bible daily, even though she had little formal education (she dropped out of school to care for her brothers and sisters). She was a cheerful giver, even though she had little money. She never mentioned Becoming a Born Again Christian, but lived a Christ-like life instead. How Grandma behaved in particular situations gave us guiding principles to emulate. For example, even as a senior herself, she always gave her seat on the bus to an older or disabled or incapacitated person of either gender, of any race or culture. So, we grandchildren did likewise – and learned how to apply Jesus’ Golden Rule with a wide variety of persons.
What Grandma said also had a lasting positive impact, for example: “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” This has helped me temper my critical speech that is naturally expressed by my analytic thinking style. Another of Grandma’s favorite sayings, “Busy hands are happy hands,” has influenced me to always enjoy working, so that I like (my avocation) what I’m doing (my vocation) – even in my seventh decade as I author books and online courses, based on lessons learned and spiritual insights gained.
I’ve described how Grandma Gray witnessed to her grandchildren because I want to encourage all Grandparents to do this today. Why? Because these seniors lived when there was a Judeo-Christian culture that promoted the 3Rs of Responsibility, Reality, and Right morals. Public schools no longer teach these these 3Rs, so that “Bad News” is rampant and getting worse. [Described in the next Chapter and in Appendix A.]
As I fondly remember Grandma Gray – her gentleness, selfless service to others before herself, her hospitality, faith and hope and love for Jesus and others – I realize that God’s purpose for her was to be a positive witness to everyone through how she lived, treated others, and spoke. This provided many opportunities for observational learning to occur as we imitated our Grandma. Thank you, God, for our Grandma!
Grandparents have the time needed to guide the development of today’s youth. Many Grandparents are still Believers, or once were, and thus can provide a Christian witness. When grandchildren live far away, they can teach grandparents how to “meet virtually” by using electronic notepads (like iPad) and Internet apps (like Zoom). Today’s grandchildren will welcome this opportunity.
Whether grandchildren are far away or near, their grandparents can provide a Christian witness, like the apostle Paul advocates“Be . imitators of me just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB)
My parents and Grandma Gray made sure we learned by hearing their instruction, seeing their role model, and doing the 3Rs – doing what’s Realistic, morally Right, and Responsible. Much of my success in life and livelihood is attributable to this.
Before Mom and Dad passed away, I wrote a tribute to thank each for providing an enduring impact on me and my two sisters: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)
In Memory of Cecilia Gray (A tribute to our Mom)
With you, we each felt equally important as a person.
Without you, there would have been sibling rivalry.
With you, we learned to love each other unconditionally.
Without you, we’d not be this loving as kids or adults.
With you, we have been sustained by your constant praying for us.
Without you, none of us would have made it here on our own.
With you, we looked forward to coming home to you.
Without you, our house would not have been a home.
With you, our needs were always met because you sacrificed for us.
Without you, we would not have received such high priority.
With you, we gained a firm and true foundation for life.
Without you, we’d be spinning our wheels on shifting sand.
With you, we learned patience and trust in the Lord.
Without you, we’d have trusted only in ourselves.
With you, we each learned right from wrong.
Without you, there is no telling where we might have fallen down.
With you, we learned to forgive and move forward with a positive spirit.
Without you, we would have clung to hurts and bitterness.
With you, we learned to dream, achieve and succeed.
Without you, life would be less passionate and worth living.
With you, we have renewed hope as your Savior takes you Home.
Without you, this last meeting would be depressing – not renewing.
Happy 95th Birthday, Dad (A tribute to our Dad)
With you as provider for our family, our needs were always met.
Without your self-sacrificing for us, we would not have gotten a good start in life.
With you, we learned honesty and integrity, and developed these in our character.
Without your example, we would not have developed such good character.
With you, we learned to work hard and do our best in all we do.
Without your role model, who could we emulate?
With you, we learned to finish what we started.
Without you, our accomplishments would be fewer.
With you, we saw a consistent standard of right from wrong.
Without you, we would not know the difference.
With you, we learned “one’s word is his bond.”
Without you, we would not trust one another’s “word.”
With you, there was no favoritism towards any of your three children.
Without you, we would have always fought because of sibling rivalry.
With you, there was gentle enforcement of parental expectations and rules.
Without you, we would not know how to provide this for our children.
With you, we learned to pitch in and do household chores and duties.
Without you, our spouses would have to nag us to do these things.
With you, we learned the discipline needed to form good habits.
Without you, our lives would be much less successful.