As a staff, we believe in practicing what you preach, and as such we often reflect on our own core values. When we drill down to the root of it, many of us come to find that it was indeed our family who instilled the values we’ve come to know, love and live by. Below, you’ll find stories from some of the Character.org team and how our families influenced our character.
There’s a multi-year running joke among my friends that “Becky Cazad is a saint.” But unlike the sarcasm that typically envelops my humor, this joke has lasted because of how true it is. My mom is the caregiver of our family and always has been. If she had a skill she could share or just a free shoulder on which others could cry, she’s offered it without question. Her compassion for others is nearly limitless, but it is somehow equally matched with her determination and drive. She sets goals and works to reach them no matter how long it takes. She is respectful and strong. She has always defended those who are bullied in school or at work because even standing at 5’2, she’s a force one doesn’t want to cross.
No single anecdote can accurately describe my mom’s amazing character. There was the time in high school a friend of mine was having a lot of trouble with her parents, and my mom offered her a room in our house as long as she needed it. There were countless times she acted as the mediator to bridge the gap between quarrelling relatives. There was the time her resiliency and hard work landed her a job just as money ran out while building our house.
As a small child and even now, I recognize I had the best role model for what it means to be human. She is my first and best example of a person. And although that high expectation for others has, of course, left me disappointed at times, I’m eternally grateful to have it. Without her influence every day for 27 years, I don’t know where I would be, but I fear it wouldn’t be at Character.org trying to encourage the Becky Cazad in everyone.
My parents, William and Janie Wyatt, were very loving, nurturing and supportive parents. It was a practice in our home to always have our dinner together. Various topics were discussed, such as Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King; or, the Black Panthers vs. SNCC; or, boycotts vs. riots. I was always encouraged to read, analyze, take a position on a particular topic and then defend it. I was taught to think analytically about – well just about everything. Dinner conversations were always interesting and informative. The result – I enjoy taking part in invigorating conversations on current events, history, etc. Our dinnertime conversations instilled in me a desire to be a life-long learner.
My sister and I were encouraged to be our own person. We were given a pretty long “leash” to explore life. Independence was a trait they instilled in us very early. While most of my friends weren’t allowed to leave the Washington, DC area, my sister and I were driving cross country to Los Angeles. Or, visiting countries outside of the US.
My parents also taught us the importance of perseverance. You don’t give up until you’ve tried absolutely everything. I believe this is one of my most used traits.
Ever since I was little I can remember my mom pointing out things in nature. “Oh,” she would say quietly at the bus stop when I was in kindergarten, “Look over in that field. Do you see it? It’s a killdeer. They pretend to be injured to protect their nest from harm.”
She’s done this for as long as remember. Constantly pointing out the flora and fauna, the wildlife, the rocks on the beach outside our Seattle home, naming each thing and describing its beauty. Even when it was hard to see the beauty, she found a way to show it to us.
I didn’t think much about what she was doing when I was young, but now it makes perfect sense. She was subtly instilling a respect, appreciation and admiration for nature. And, she continues to do this now. Last week I received a video of a bluebird couple, building a nest in one of the many birdhouses in her backyard. Her love of nature has rubbed off on me. I now grow a modest garden on my city apartment balcony in honor of the woman who raised me to appreciate the earth, and because of her values, I deeply respect the climate, the world and this land we all call home.
A week out from my oldest son’s graduation, reflecting is a part of my regular day. Yesterday, as I watched bad officiating cost the Hornets, my sons’ baseball team, a game and chance to continue playing to the state championship, I realized baseball and my baseball community continues to be a resource to teach character to not only my sons, but myself. So, being the person who has the word character in their job title, of course, I held myself together, had a quote to inspire them by some famous person in history and operated in elegance and grace. WRONG! Who was behind the plate yelling at this umpire? You guessed it, me. A base runner had just lowered their shoulder instead of sliding into home plate (my son kept the ball and got the out by the way). Feeling like not only did I let myself down acting that way, I had also not served my position well.
Knowing I was being asked to write this piece, I later asked my son, “What character trait have I taught you to live the most?” He surprised me when he said honesty. In the spirit of honesty, if there was a resource to point a parent, it would be toward a community. For me, it is my fellow baseball moms, who celebrate successes with me and support me in the disappointments like when I don’t deal with things well. As I leave you, I seek to work on forgiveness. I will forgive that ump for costing us a chance to play again, that boy who lowered his shoulder and myself for a moment not modeling the character that I hope for my sons to display. How am I able to forgive myself? Because I know my son and my community of support had forgiven me for my imperfection long before I began the process myself.
How have your parents or children instilled your character? We would love to hear your stories.