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"Be good."

This is what my dad says at the end of every phone call. "Be good. I love you." And to the extent that he means "behave," I have, in many ways, gone out of my way NOT to follow this advice. But that's only a tiny part of what he means. What he means most of all by this advice is evident in the example he sets with his own life.

My dad is one of the kindest people I've met. He may react harshly at first out of passion or indignation, but compassion soon takes over. His heart is easily softened, especially when it comes to my sister and me. He is generous and loving. He's opinionated but fair. He's not always right, but he's humble enough to admit when he's not. And he makes me laugh. He's a good dad and a good man.

He's also good at everything he does. It's a little sickening. Every job he's ever had, whether it is a job he actually gets paid to do or just something he volunteered to do, he does well. And he's truly bothered by people who don't (or, rather, people who don't care or try). He used to run the sound system at his church. He actually reorganized the whole system so that it would work more efficiently. He would meet the choir or special guests speakers/musicians whenever they could meet to practice and make sure that they could be heard. Mom says that any time there is a squeak or feedback or lull that isn't supposed to be there, he flinches a little. He's stopped going back and taking over, at least. :)

In his professional life, he's been a farmer, a county commissioner, and a business owner. When he was county commissioner, the residents in his precinct knew that they could call him at any time (and they certainly did) if there was something wrong with their roads. And he would fix it. He would also spend extra time trying to figure out how to make it never happened again. I understand that it's easy with an elected position to make promises during the campaign and then run out of time to keep them. But my dad taught me that it's not as inevitable as most politicians would like us to believe.

When his step-dad retired, he passed on his dry cleaning business to my dad. Dad had been his assistant and knew the standard that Granddaddy had set, and he upheld that standard. Because he also understood the importance of having a good relationship with customers, he upheld that standard as well. I remember when another dry cleaner opened in our small town. They lost no time in pointing out that their prices were lower than my dad's prices. Naturally, several of his customers brought this to his attention, hoping to get him to lower his prices. He nicely told them that he stood by his prices, but if they were too high, they were welcome to take their business to the competition with no hard feelings. This was enough to settle the issue for most of them. But one lady kept badgering him. Finally, during one of her rants, he took some cash out of his pocket and placed it on the counter. When she abruptly stopped lecturing, he said, "Clearly, this is something that is very important to you. So I want you to go try out the competition. I'll even pay the first bill. This (indicating the money) should cover the cost to clean a dress shirt. I want you to know that this is not a dismissal; you have been a great customer for many years, and I appreciate that. But I want you to be happy with our service, and you're not happy. And I'd rather you be happy with the competition than unhappy with us." Within a week, she was back, happy as a clam to be one of my dad's customers. Apparently, the lower cost wasn't worth the extra shine that leaving the press on for a little long caused to her husband's trousers. Heh.

Honestly, this is all a little hard to live up to. And I know that it is not his intention to set such a daunting standard of excellence. Or maybe it is. Either way, it's too late to overcome it - I caught the bug. I forever want to live up to it. I want to be good, just like my dad.
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May 2013

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