My father passed away nearly a year ago, and as we get closer to the anniversary of his passing I find myself thinking more about him. He certainly had his quirks; he would not eat rice because he had too much of it during the Korean war, hated cell phones which he dubbed “yell phones” reflecting the behavior he saw of people using them, and was loyal to a fault to the local Pittsburgh brew, Iron City beer, refusing to drink that famous St. Louis “rice beer” as he called it. He was always quick with a corny joke….. “Look…. the train just left, I can see its tracks”, never too busy to help someone in need whether family, neighbor, co-worker or stranger , and worked hard at the local telephone company for 34 years but harder still at home building most of our house himself and keeping a large garden each year. Sometime later I will share with you about the ball of wire he kept next to his living room chair from re-wiring the tractor “getting rid of all that needless extra safety stuff” as he would proudly explain.
As I grow older it is his positive attitude that has affected me most. He used to always say “It’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” He always said it with a wink and a knowing smile that the poor grammar added to its simplistic charm. I am not naïve enough to believe this was his own saying, and in fact a quick internet search reveals attribution in some form to famous people like Mark Twain, Satchel Paige and Jack Benny. However, as a young boy growing up in a small community north of Pittsburgh, this was my world. I could not appreciate the simple wisdom then, but it planted a seed that would grow and unknowingly guide me during my adult life. If we allow small trifling things to matter… being cut off in traffic, spilling coffee on ourselves, the wifi dropping while reading the sports scores… then we will constantly be upset and aggravated. We need to conquer the mind, not the situation, to overcome and be happy through consciously choosing our attitude and reaction. I have been fortunate to live on four continents and travel to more than 30 countries. I have seen the happiest of people in both the richest areas of Switzerland and the poorest areas of Bolivia, and have learned that it is the power of attitude, not money or circumstances, that shines through it all. It ensured that my wife and I have taught our children there are 3 things you can choose; your attitude, your reaction, and to not be discouraged. These choices are ours regardless of what has happened, how other people act, or what will be.
Today universities and the field of psychology are offering classes and programs to the study of positivity. We see websites and Facebook pages devoted to spreading the word of the power of positivity. This is wonderful stuff and makes me all the more grateful for a good man who worked hard as an electrical maintenance foreman at the local telephone company and taught me the simplicity of “It’s mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”. Thanks Dad!