I have been raised to do the right thing. From young I have been taught, by both example and discipline, to carry myself a certain way. Please and thank you, a question deserves a response, look people in the eye when they are talking to you are all important blocks in the solid foundation of a growing boy. A solid handshake that when necessary acts as a guarantee to fulfill the words that were spoken and those words should carry the weight of a legal document. Honesty, not only to add the weight to the words, but in the path of life chosen. Lying was a highly punishable offense growing up, tantamount to thievery, a sacrilege that could be met with stoning. Always meet your commitments, especially if it is an inconvenience, those were usually the most important ones, that had the most importance to and impact on the people around you. Never walk away from obligations whether it be a team sport, a delegated assignment, a promise to a friend, or a family member in need. You should always leave things better than you found them and you should give more than you take. It is never a hand-out but a hand-up, even to strangers because there are always those that need it more than we do. Above and beyond is the norm not the exception and quitting was, is, and never will be an option.
This is the foundation of my life. Perhaps most of it reeks of cliche, especially now, reading the words as I write them but they are my life. They are the terms on which I live. This is how I have met my wife and built a family, first through giving and promises upheld and then through honesty and commitment. This is how a loving farm has been built, hand-in-hand with family with care and hard work. "An honest day's pay for an honest day's work" has led me to this place in life and I am thankful. I have the things I do because of the foundation my parent's helped me build through the years by both hugs and the belt when needed. My wife keeps me along that path now much the same way and we raise our children on the same strong ground. And, my friends are my friends because of this.
However, as of late, I have become aware, perhaps because of age, either of me or my kids, that the circle of friends has dwindled, that the immediate world around me, for the most part, no longer shares my ideals. At times, I feel as if my kindness, my patience, my willingness to bend, to give is mistaken for weakness, for a trait worth exploiting. What I had perceived as friends for years are no longer present, some caught up in the never-ending pursuit of "things" or "status" or, perhaps, just the mindless pursuit that keeps them insulated from the life they have created. Some have been entangled in a web of their own creation, untruths so deep they do not know how to climb out. Others have found the commitment to honesty too high, as their selfish goals became apparent. And still others have reached their goals and our usefulness to them has run out. They have taken what they needed and do not intend to give back and so they move on. I have shared many years and great memories with most of these people. They are forever woven into the fabric of my life. I do not begrudge them their pursuits, I was not raised that way. Though I do harbor, some days, frustration with some, as we have shared so much and some are so close, that I do not understand their choices or the paths they follow. I can not change them but I can stand firm on my foundation and know that I will still be here when, and if, they return.
Sometimes I wonder if I have set my expectations of others too high, if I have doomed my children to a fate similar to mine, a small circle of family and friends. But then I look at the people that are still by my side, the true friendships I have, the family I share holidays and memories and years with, the partner in life that holds my hand, and I know that I am on the right path. It may be less traveled but it is the one I should be on. It is the one I will put my children on and hope they do not stray. And I know they will not because I have seen it with the family of my closest friends. I have lived it. My parents still live it to this day. From strong roots grow strong trees, this is more than a cliche, it is life.