My dad, Tommy, has been gone for 10 years now. I continue to be impacted by the values and principles that he taught me and emotion still floods my mind and heart as I think of him, remembering the man that he was as a father, friend, and mentor. In Part II, I’ll share a few more of the principles Dad taught me.
Dad modeled a heart of gratitude. He had the ability to look back at where he had come from without letting the past keep him down. He always gave thanks to God for His goodness to us and he never took credit for his successes, making a point of saying “thank you” to others even for the smallest thing they did for him. He was grateful that God had blessed his business and family and modeled this my whole life by giving back and sharing all he had with others. His generosity was evidence of his gratitude.
Show Hospitality & Be Inclusive
The gift of hospitality is a precious gift that Mom and Dad both expressed and personified. They often welcomed strangers into our home and cared for them. I can remember days of coming to the breakfast table and seeing someone new who inevitably would be staying in our home for a time.
I remember one young lady who had a bit of a rough history. I had seen her at church from time-to-time, but never in the condition she was in at the breakfast table that first morning. They took the risk of bringing her into their home with two teenage boys because they desired to help get her back on the right path … and they did. Even after we went away to college, we would come home for a visit and find someone living with them—another soul needing someone to love them and give them a hand up.
My dad wanted the best for his family. He was committed to seeing that, as kids, we had what we needed to move forward in life. I know he wanted us to have a much different experience than he had as a child—and he accomplished it. We worked, played, and ate meals together. Television wasn’t allowed in the kitchen or dining area, and we couldn’t leave the dinner table until we had finished our food and were sociable. Dad loved his family and he treated us all equally, except for my sister … he spoiled her. She could twist him around her finger with one or two sentences and the roll of her eyes. We called him out on this, but it didn’t matter.
Dad was always playful, kind, and generous with his grandkids and great-grandkids. He saw to it that they were effectively spoiled in his time with them. When my dad, who was a hunter, heard that his first great-grandson, just 4 months along in the womb, was going to be named after him, he went out that very day and bought him a gun! Dad died before Asher Thomas was born.
Lead by Example
When Dad asked us to do something, he always led the way, showing us how he wanted things done. He never asked us to do something that he was not willing to do himself, letting his actions speak louder than his words. I remember one funny incident when he had asked us to help move firewood into the house. As he picked up a load of logs from the stack in the backyard, a group of wasps came out and he was stung. He was running and kicking his legs high as he ran, and we were running from him to keep the wasps off of us! We laughed until we cried as he ran. We were thankful that he had “led the way” that day.
Dad wanted his three boys to learn the value of hard work, so he taught us how to mow the yard, rake pine straw, and water the plants. He modeled what he wanted from us and then shared in the tasks.
Invest in Your Kids
My dad never wanted us to miss out on something that he thought would beneficial to us. He was happy to pay for school trips, summer camps, and even participate in mission trips. He wanted us to have a broad base of experiences going into adult life. He valued each of us having hobbies, sports activities, and summer camp experiences, making sure that we had good equipment. To him, it was an investment in our futures. I think some miss the importance of seeing that their kids are exposed to educational and meaningful activities.
Coach Your Kids Up
I cannot ever remember my dad telling me what to do when I came to him for advice. He would always make me talk through an idea and consider the options before me. He asked questions and made general comments, but ultimately left the decision to me. He could be counted on for solid coaching anytime I called, and was an encourager, spurring me on to being a better person, leader, and father. Even as kids, he had always cheered us on, even when our choices made him nervous.
After I got married, he was a great ear for advice, financial concerns, or home buying questions. I remember when God asked Libby and I to move to Miami and we ended up renting a home in a very rough neighborhood. When Dad came down to visit and saw the neighborhood, the bars on our windows for safety, and heard that people had been killed just a block away, he showed concern, but never told us we had made a mistake.
Don’t Give Up
Dad was never one to give up on a dream. When he bought the shoe store, he had to work hard, buy smart, and learn how to get more customers into the store. He was creative in finding new ways to get sales and to develop more business, never giving up on making the store profitable. If he had times of discouragement, we never knew it. When he hired the wrong salespeople, for instance, he just dealt with it, learned from his mistakes, and moved on.
Anytime a goal was reached, he was quick to move onto the next thing already in the works. His own dad had quit just about every job he had, but Dad would stay the course—he never believed that giving up was an option.
When I got older and started to understand that my dad had done pretty well for himself, I also realized that he was humble about his accomplishments and hadn’t become proud. Dad was never one to brag or act like he was someone special. As a kid, I remember moving into a bigger house and getting a new car. It didn’t dawn on me that Mom and Dad were making more money and now had the ability to do more things than before. Even when given an award or elected to positions at the church or in town, he remembered where he was from and stayed in a place of humility.
Live Life to the Fullest
In my dad’s retirement years, he continued to live life to the fullest. He and Mom bought an RV and joined an RV volunteers’ group. They traveled across this nation, giving time and effort to help with Teen Challenge and various church projects. They both stayed busy serving others until the day they died, using their gifts and talents to do good in their own town and across the country.
Dad also got into gardening and began to grow beautiful vegetables. I’ll never forget when he asked my older brother if he could use part of his backyard to grow a garden. My brother responded, “Sure, Dad, as long as I get some of the vegetables.” The thing is, my dad had decided he wanted to fertilize the area with chicken manure and ordered a truckload to be delivered on the driveway of my brother’s home. When my brother came home from work, he got out of his car and the smell hit him. The entire neighborhood smelled like chicken manure! That was Dad. He just wanted his garden to do well and had no thought of how much that amount of manure might affect the neighbors. We laugh about it to this day, but he did grow enough tomatoes to feed the county—he always grew more than he could use so he could give them away to those who might need it.
If I practice even half of these principles and values in life, I will be a happy man. I have worked hard at being like my dad and pray I will leave the same legacy he did.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge