Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and one of the things that stands out to me as I think about my own father is how he has always spoken to everyone the same way. My mother used to point this out to me as a child every now and then, which helped me realise from an early age that, 1) this is important, and 2) it is not something everyone does. As I’ve grown older, my conviction of the truth of these two points has only grown stronger.
My childhood in Alabama straddled two worlds. On our side of the mountain, our house was tucked away in what the long-time locals called Possum Holler, where the culture and speech and ways of living were very different from what my parents had grown up with in the midwest. On the other side of the mountain was a city bursting with specialised engineers and scientists and doctors and such. In different ways at different times, I saw my Dad regularly interacting with a wide variety of people in both of these worlds, and I saw over and over again that my Mom was right: he really did speak to everyone the same way.
In the space of one day, I could hear my Dad speaking to people with impressive-sounding credentials then hop in the car and use the exact same voice with his children as he took us to the local barbershop where he used the same thoughtful tones and respectful pauses again with whoever happened to be there chatting about politics or the weather. The people and topics of conversation changed dramatically. The respect in his voice remained the same.
Some people pride themselves on treating everyone with equal contempt. Others are chameleons, constantly adjusting their tone and manner to the relative social status of the people around them. My Dad doesn’t worry about any of that. He just treats everyone with the same honour, no matter who they are.
Thanks, Dad, for showing me how it’s done.
(Photo above is of my Dad and my son, Daniel)