In an age where everything is visible through the click of a button, there are a few things that are less, transparent. Whether it is something that you have carried with you since childhood or you leave behind as you get older (or more successful), it is brandished on your shoulders when you are confronted with adversity.
When I was a young child, I felt out of place in my family. Growing up in a non-traditional household where my father worked and my mother did the same, there was nothing that I relished in more than the slow and feeble art of "ethical behavior". Each time we went somewhere I observed the different rules of conduct and found that, for the most part, there was beauty in how people respected and acted towards each other. It was the finest of social niceties would warm even the youngest of hearts.
My grandfather, a man who was wise well beyond his years - taught me that ethics is a set of rules one abides by throughout their lifetime. The last of a "generation of gentleman", he gave me the unwritten pamphlet of listening before speaking, and confirming before judging. As a rule, he gave me books upon books of classics from those whose names a ten year old could not pronounce (Aesop and Socrates?). I relished in the fact that this knowledge was not one that was taught to me in school, but finally handed down to my generation. Realizing that it was now my responsibility to hold the baton of what my family stands for, I've never looked back.
Society has gone completely astray with the actions and inactions of many individuals. During my grandfather's last few years, we exchanged correspondence where he detailed some beautiful aspects of his life, most especially his childhood spent in a more provincial setting. He reminisced of how neighbors would be within arms reach to help anyone in need and values were shared in communities, and not families. My grandfather was fortunate because his father (a twin) raised his family with such grace and class that they were awarded the model family award in their state. In as much as one would laugh at this "prize", my humble self would like to ask, "where have all these people gone?"
Meeting individuals for the first time always gives me a moment to reflect on the ethics that my grandfather has brought me up to be. I'm assured that for the most part, my life has meaning and purpose because of not what I have around me, but what I carry in me. If you have spent your entire life raising a family, the focus should not be on what is "tangible" or "visible", but what values, systems and beliefs are transferred from one generation to another. My greatest gift that I have ever received is not anything monetary or material, but a simple act of knowing that I am the individual that has strength in honor and a commitment to my word. Nothing is more disappointing to me than an individual who lacks the motive (or ability) to stand behind what they say or what they should do. Invariably, it is a disgrace.
I'm thankful to my family for giving me the courage to live the life that I believe is right and to surround myself with individuals who purposefully do the same. It also makes me sad that there are not more of us.