My dad taught me these three valuable things

Published 9:06 am Friday, September 19, 2014

By Randy Forbes

Sometimes the best advice doesn’t come from a book, from a microphone, from behind a desk in Washington, or even from people who are leaders in their field. Sometimes the best life lessons are found deep in the roots of where we came from. My dad passed away years ago, but I carry with me the lessons he taught me. Three in particular shape my perspective day after day:

Little things make big things happen. Back when I was young, I remember we needed to build a new shed. Those were the days before stores like Home Depot or Lowes existed. Brand new lumber was expensive, so folks often reused materials that others in the community didn’t need. That summer, Dad and I used the boards from an old abandoned barn – pulling them down one by one, ripping out the nails, and taking off the tin and straightening it to reuse. We hauled our supplies back to the house and got to work. I don’t know how much of a help I really was, but I chose to stay beside Dad the entire time working alongside him.

The sun was hot that day, and sweat beads formed on our faces. I stood there and handed him every nail that went into that shed – one by one. Dad made me feel proud of my work. Even though I just handed him nails, he always emphasized how we built the new shed “together.” He taught me that when you’re willing to do hard work, even in the little things, big things come together.

Honor your commitments. As a young man, my father carried a pocket-sized Bible in his chest pocket. Shortly before the Normandy invasion in 1944, he prayed for God’s protection and promised God that if he made it home, he would make sure his family attended church ­every Sunday. Well, he made it home and he kept that promise. I cannot remember a Sunday that Dad did not take my mother, my siblings, and me to church — even when we were away on vacation. I now have my Dad’s pocket Bible. It is one of my most treasured possessions, and it serves as a strong reminder of my dad’s service to his country. But it also serves as a visual representation of my dad’s unwavering resolve to keep his commitments.

Today, I place great value on my family and my faith, undoubtedly because of my dad’s example. Those lessons of commitment bleed into all areas of my life, driving my daily defense of faith, family, and freedom.

Listening is a way toward wisdom. My dad and I kept busy doing a lot of things together. But on late summer nights, after dinner, often the whole family would gather on our small screened-in-porch to talk as the sun went down. Sometimes an aunt or uncle would drop by; other times my grandparents would be there. They would talk about neighborhood news, church going-ons, politics — mostly ordinary things, but it was good to sit there listening and to be together. Part of the family. And, sitting there on the porch as the dusk faded into night, I learned the value of listening and observing. Sometimes taking a moment to pause gives us the best perspective and sometimes we find the best answers simply by listening.

As life in America becomes more elaborate and complex, I like to think back to the simple lessons I learned from my dad. They were the building blocks of my character — the values that still guide me today. Perhaps someone influential in your life taught you life lessons that helped form your character. I’m convinced that our nation could gain a lot by applying these lessons today. If we did, I think we would be reminded that the reason our nation became great is not merely because we had visionary leaders or eloquent elected officials. Our nation became great because of everyday Americans like my dad — Americans who have pride in their work, place value on honesty, character, and commitment, and who pass those lessons on to their children. And that is the reason we are still great today.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see