The Future of Tomorrow Lies with the Past of Yesterday

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My mentor, my protector, my friend; the one who taught me since before I can remember, the one who protected me since before I could speak, the one who loved me since before I knew what love was. My Father, the most important teacher in my life, made me into the person I am today, and continues to influence who I will be in the future. Over the years, my father taught me many things in life, mostly trivial bits of information that come in handy from time to time. Which lesson holds the most importance? Well, for me, it was the one that changed my perception of life. The one that will forever play a role in the development of my persona, of my values, of my character. It is fitting that my father taught me the most important lesson; in all of the mini lectures that he gave to me, he planted a small seed in my head that grew. “Always learn as much as you can, whenever you can, from whoever you can.”

Clouds. It seemed like it was going to rain. Slightly ominous. My father and I were going to the junk yard to pull brake cylinders off of a car for his truck. We pulled up to the gravel wasteland, stepped on to the dry exhausted gravel road, and lugged our tools toward the entrance. The clouds grew darker. We started ripping through cars trying to find the cylinders that would fit his truck. We found a few that looked promising but continued our search. Then he started.

“Boy come here, I need help.” That was always the way he addressed me before he taught me something. “Boy.” What a simple word; a word that changed me from a son to a student. I held the hood of the car as my father rummaged through the rusty dead carcass. The temperature dropped. With his head hidden, only his words reached me. Always listen. A didactic tone filled my head. My father began, “Always listen to everyone, they may surprise you with what they know.” After he spoke I knew that this lesson was different than previous speeches, different from trivial facts. It had meaning, true meaning. Still underneath the hood, his ratchet clicking steady as a clock, he spoke of trivial matters again. My arms shook from fatigue. Mist settled over us, wrapping us in its cold grip. Goosebumps.

The silence was interrupted. “Learn as much as you can. I know I am not always around so take a little knowledge from everyone you meet.” Again, the words differed from the rest. Mist to rain. He continued speaking. “No one person knows everything. It is impossible to contain all the knowledge of the world, there’s too much. Use people as a resource; make sure they are reliable though.” Muffled thunder rolled through the sky. “You never know what you can learn from people.” His head returned from under the hood to my sight. He looked me in the eyes. “I have taught you for many years, speaking to you about everything that I have learned, in hopes that you will learn something, anything.” We moved to the next car. The gravel was no longer exhausted. Small pebbles shined.

The hood opened. My father’s excitement showed through his half grin. He found what we were searching for. Downpour. The ratchet moved faster, no longer steady, but still soothing. “Do what I tried to do. Learn from everyone you meet. You will become well rounded, I promise.” I stood there, contemplating what had transpired between us. The idea set itself deep into my thoughts, it grew roots, and it claimed a spot in my mind forever, but I had no idea what it was doing. I unconsciously took heed of my father’s advice. My conscience mind buried the seed with the other trivial facts, but my subconscious mind gave the seed all it needed for it to prosper.

My father emerged from the hood, lifted his prize, and smiled at me with an endearing grin. Drenched. My father and I returned to the truck the same way we had come, only this time, there was no wasteland, there was no exhaustion, just shiny pebbles and refreshed earth. The smell of rain filled my nostrils and relaxed me. And I thought. “Learn from people, they might surprise you with what they know.” We loaded our instruments and our prizes into the bed of my father’s big maroon truck, growing colder from the torrents of rain. We left. Happy.

The pitter-patter of rain on the windshield, the wipers moving in rhythm, the soft hum generated from the heater, all of these allowed me to drift in and out of conciseness. During this blur of two states, I blended my thoughts; expanding on them without really thinking until my dad woke me up when we arrived at his house. My thinking stopped. The rain stopped. All that was left were puddles — isolated memories from the lesson I received – with ripples passing through them from each drop that fell. Never again did I tune people out, or ignore what they had to say. This changed the way my personality grew. It changed the way I learned. I no longer have just one important mentor, because I now I listen to the world to learn. Always listening. Truly listening. Learning. Learning as much as I can, wherever I am, from whoever I am with.





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