This blog is personal.
Alumni of the year
I was recently honored as the Alumni of the year from my high school. I was very honored and humbled. The upbringing I had as a child doesn’t seem to be available to many people anymore. I was raised in a small rural Michigan town that was very stable. Many of my friends I knew all the way from kindergarten to high school graduation. Some of them I knew even before we started school.
One of those friends and I have occasionally wondered about what was it about our environment and upbringing that allowed us to work comfortably all over the country and world. This award forced me to get my thoughts down on paper as an answer to that question
God, Family, Friends, Mentors
As I began to collect and record my thoughts, I focused on these four elements that had made difference for me that carried me through a lifetime.
One summer I was attending a Christian Camp run by Bill Glass. At the time, Bill Glass was the defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. He was big and powerful, a man’s man, and had everything he needed to be a self-reliant individual. However, that week he spoke often about his total dependence on Christ being his Lord and Savior and that he would be nothing without him. His message began to sink in with me and by the end of the week, I had also accepted Christ as Savior.
On the last night of the camp, there was a great deal of singing and asking people to come forward to either declare their decisions or acknowledge that they needed to make a decision. I was in a row of about a dozen guys, standing third from the isle.
I knew I had to go forward to declare my decision but as a 14-year-old boy was struggling with the issue. Pretty soon the two guys closest to the aisle went down front. The guy to my right began nudging me saying that I needed to go down front. I kept saying that I knew I did but just needed a minute.
Finally, after one more nudge, I turned to him to tell him I knew that I did but when I turned to face him, the entire row was empty. I was the only one in the aisle! I knew right then that it wasn’t a human that was nudging me and I immediately went down front. After that my local church began to nurture me, learning more about the Lord as I grew.
At the banquet were all of my siblings, one of my daughters from Tunisia (the other one was at a wedding in Colorado), and many nieces and nephews. As I looked and talked with each of them it was amazing that they all knew the Lord and were growing in him. I know that many families have difficulties and we have our share as well, but because we all know the Lord, we stay close and appreciate each other.
As I said earlier, many of my friends from high school have been my friends for my entire life. We remain amazingly close and although jobs and family took us in different directions, we still get together as often as we can. I cherish those moments and feel very blessed and loved by them. It gives me great strength.
This one was difficult because there were so many. However, I narrowed it down to two because of time. The first one I identified was my father. I’m not sure he would have considered himself a mentor but he was to me. He had lost a leg in WWII that made his life very difficult but he never let it stop him. He started his own business that required a lot of physical effort, built his (and our) home, and raised a great family. And never once did I hear him complain!
And although he only had a high school education, he was a non-stop reader and learner. I would come home from Engineering School with a new concept I had just learned and couldn’t wait to share with him. But as soon as I did I would find out that he had been reading about the same concept and knew more about it than I did. I never could get ahead of him. The most cherished possession that I inherited was his dictionary. It is 8 x 10 in size and 8 inches thick. 8 inches thick! A dictionary.
The other mentor that came to mind for me was my high school physics teacher. There were many times when I thought he was picking on me. He would say “Potter, what’s the answer?” or “Potter, come to the board and show us how to solve this.” It just didn’t seem fair to me. Then one day I ran into him in a back hallway of our school and felt emboldened to confront him. When I asked why he seemed to be picking on me his answer was “Because you’re worth it!” He was the only high school teacher I went to visit after graduating from Engineer School.
God, Family, Friend, Mentors
As much as you might like to be, you will never be God.
Other than spouses, you can’t pick who your family will be.
That leaves friends and mentors. Cultivate friends that will tell you the truth no matter how painful that will be. Be that kind of friend to them.
Seek out mentors who will help you grow and develop. And be one yourself. Maybe it’s a friend you can mentor. Maybe it’s someone who you believe has great potential that could use your experience and care. Maybe it’s a grandchild. They look up to their grandparents whether they express it or not. Let someone else know they’re worth it!
Ron, your High School picked the right person. Over the years you have always been very helpful when ever I needed help or advice in our field of endeavor. And, in addition, you have been a very good friend. Thank you so much.