Is there someone in your past who is an important part of your identity? Most people wouldn't consider their parents part of their past. But sadly, both of mine died when I was young, so they fit into that category.  My dad, in particular, remains a daily influence. I have tried to model my behavior after his, although I know I often fall short. He was, simply, the kindest-hearted person I've ever known. He was a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, a story-teller, a laugher and a hugger. He never judged (that old first stone business) but that didn't mean he was without opinions. Instead, he guided me — and my friends, who were instantly drawn to him — by asking me to consider the many sides of every situation. He taught me to look for similarities, not differences. Although a devout Jew, he felt that the only religion one really needed was the Golden Rule. Most important, he believed in gratitude. “Only pray in thanks,” he would say. “Who are you to try to change God's mind?” Being a grateful person has sustained me through the many bumps and detours of my life. We only had 18 years together, but I'm glad it was spent with him, rather than a longer time with a lesser man. — Barb Adams Father.  A warrior who lost half his friends in WWII.  Flying 50 missions between New Guinea and Indonesia in one of the most treacherous weather systems in the world. He got a “true blue” ribbon from his fellow airmen, and he was a “true blue” husband to my mom.  His moral code was of the highest standard.  Valor, Honor, Honesty, Faithfulness.  My dad. — Larry Kelly My grandmother, “Mema”, was one of my biggest influences growing up, and remains so to this day although she's been gone 23 years.  My older sister and I stayed with Mema and Granddaddy from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon every weekend for years.  Mema was truly kind to everyone. She had an amazing sense of humor and enjoyed making people around her laugh.  Oh, man, did she love her food!  When we were misbehaving, she only had to go and get the paddle from the top of the fridge and hold it in her hand (paddles were widely accepted back in the day!).  I never saw or heard of her actually using it, but the idea that she was thinking about it or even just might be disappointed was enough to make me and all 14 of my cousins “straighten up and fly right!”  Mema was an avid fisherwoman.  She once fished in the eye of a hurricane in Galveston Bay!!  She had an amazing view of life.  She never seemed to be in a hurry, and I don't even remember her saying harsh words!  She was a prankster, and no one was immune to her silliness, yet she never stopped being lady.  She noticed and appreciated the beauty around her.  One of my favorite memories is sitting on her porch watching and listening to the birds.  To this day when I see a red bird, it feels like a little whisper in my ear…  Thank you, Mema. — Sarah Hager My first thought was to say my parents, but my mother’s mother was the first “influence” outside of home.  She was a reader, writer, thinker, “a Bluestocking,” and always had time to discuss ideas.  She was divorced, a shady position in the ‘40s and ‘50s and she worked as a secretary in a large office.  She was brave, loyal and fun, too – in spite of having limited means she always had big dinners for her large family, was generous with gifts that she made herself (I have a beaded poodle for my sweater set).  She was the center of our family’s web of life. She embodied the word I choose to meditate on today:  courage. — Sarah Boyd My mother gave me patience and the focus to do well at whatever I work on.  My father gave me humor and not taking myself too seriously.  My family, wife and kids give me love and the understanding life is mess.  My former professor Paul Strandjono taught us leadership lessons. I have tried to incorporate all of these gifts into my identity. — Wayne Chandler My Dad – I moved back in with him when I was 14, and Dad felt the pressure to teach me in the four remaining years how to be an adult.  He did this very deliberately and transparently.  I quote Dad all the time, and compare myself to what he tried to teach me.  I do not subscribe to everything he taught, but I think of him, and that effort, and his love, every day. — Jon Palmer I could do a whole story project around this one – many, many family member and several teachers and mentors. The first to come to mind, though, was my Uncle Joe – namesake of my firstborn, he was hardworking, fiercely intelligent, and dedicated to his community.  He was also one of the most loving people I have ever known, with a wicked sense of humor.  I aspire to be like him, and I am eternally grateful that he was one of the rocks of my childhood. — Katy Carpman


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