Fathering gives me a chance to help my children understand some of the things that are still challenging for me. Whenever the drama of primary school sends one of my daughters home a little upset, I talk them through it and help them to see what is really important. The topic is a good reminder for me to do what comes naturally and be myself.
I just learned about the passing of a man from my hometown in Omaha, Nebraska, who was pretty much known by all. If you didn’t know Terry, then you didn’t get out enough. It has been over 20 years since I have lived in Omaha and I cannot say I knew him well, but I definitely remember his presence during my teenage years.
Terry would catch people off guard a little bit at first because of how friendly he was. He had a big, permanent smile and would strike up conversation with everyone. At the first direct encounter with Terry, you would think, “I know who Terry is, but I didn’t think he knew me.” It was as if you had spent time hanging out together in the past but could not remember doing so.
At first he would come off as being a bit “out there,” but you would soon realize he was just 100% comfortable opening up and talking to strangers, and he loved to do so. He seemed to give everyone a chance to be his friend. He always appeared happy despite some really tough times that he and his family had to deal with.
An old classmate responding to the news and a picture of him on Facebook said it best: “Wow! His face brings back some amazing memories for me as a kid, when I realized that even if you were different and seemingly a little strange, you might also be amazing, sweet, smart, and brave. He was a delight.”
I grew up knowing a lot of interesting people and my parents told me stories about many more. There was the man who never wore shoes. There was the old blind man who sold brooms door to door most of his life until he died at the age of 91. There was the poor guy who just had terrible luck with everything but would always come back for more. Some were legends, some were crazy, but regardless of what we might call them, they were genuine. They did whatever came naturally and didn’t seem to care what anyone else thought.
I have to remind myself that it is ok to be different and even a little strange. Here in Switzerland, there is a large expat community with people coming from all sorts of backgrounds. Although different in some regards, expats and locals alike tend to be very similar in other ways. Most are highly educated, speak multiple languages, are well read and travelled, and are generally very talented. Sometimes it can feel intimidating being around so many impressive people, trying to live up to their strong ideas of what greatness is.
It’s good to remember that not everyone on this earth is extraordinary in the same way. Even though my wife and I are impressed with the talents of many people we know, we also realize that some of them value things that are not very important to us. Even though it is in our human nature to want to fit in, we need to remember it is not healthy if we try too hard.
My wife and I encourage our children to pursue things in life that come naturally to them and be happy with who they are. We hope they find satisfaction in all parts of their lives, especially in their relationships with others. We hope they are able to form true friendships that allow them to give and receive support, while respecting other people’s differences. It’s not always easy to accomplish this harmony in life; simply doing whatever feels right is sometimes the best we can do.
By Brian Wilson
Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads’ group in his spare time. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org