My dad was a hero to countless people because of how he made them feel. In his company you felt like you were the most important person in the world, his most treasured friend. I was absolutely certain I was his FAVORITE Child, or at least his Favorite daughter, I am the eldest of nine. Now that I am older and wiser, I know that each of my siblings will tell you the exact same thing about themselves. This phenomenon ripples throughout all cousins, friends, former students and football players and honestly out to those meetings him for the first time. He did not know or recognize anyone as a stranger. He was amazing.
When we were little, Dad would coach us up. He encouraged hopefulness, always fostering a can-do attitude- imparting confidence. He taught us to always turn to prayer first and holding good thoughts second. He didn’t mention the idea of LUCK as I recall. Since little kids struggle with crossing fingers—We were instructed to hold our thumbs!
Open your hands with palms up. Fold your wonderful opposing digits into both palms. Wrap your remaining fingers around it. They may look a bit like a barrel or a small stack of tires. Yea you’ve got it! Shake ‘em a bit like rattles. That’s it- Holding your thumbs! I can remember many a football game unlocking my fingers revealing blue, near lifeless thumbs from squeezing so tight.
I was taught to stand up straight. Be proud of your height. It never occurred to me to ask why. I simply stood as tall as I could. Hearing, “Atta girl” was all I needed. We actually practiced handshakes and introductions. Did you do this in your family? Maybe it’s universal, though I suspect not. It was easy learning to look people in the eye when the loving, merry eyes of my dad were my mirror. We developed script. He expected more than stating our name. He urged us to Smile (Be glad- he’d say).
Ask about the other person. Remember their name. Simple tools of good posture, eye contact, a firm handshake and a smile opens doors. More importantly opens hearts. These simple tools make the journey through this life much smoother.
Though heroic, our dad was a prankster, a scamp, some may even claim a rapscallion. Our confidence training came in handy for events like high school or college football games, fairs, a movie and every year without fail- the Indianapolis 500 Race. A ticket short, wanting to save a buck or just to please himself, he would say, ‘When I tell you, Go, look straight ahead, act like you know what you’re doing and keep on walking.’ Every one of my siblings and several cousins will tell you their own version of where they slipped in –unpaid- with dad or Uncle Bill. It was frightening and exhilarating.
Look straight head and keep on walkin’ and the subtext ‘act like you know what you’re doing’ are behaviors that communicate authority and confidence. I tested this repeatedly in my own pranks. My friends were astonished. How do you do that? Why don’t you get caught? The practice of those small lessons over time bred a belief, a skill set that was recognized as confidence. Hearing that often, I came to believe it it about myself.
Disappointments, shortfalls, even failures come to all of us, but confidence helped me to get up quicker and to try again. I am committed to building confidence in others by seeing them with loving parent eyes. Teaching basic skills. Making it fun and practicing through successes until confidence belongs to them. Hopefully the cycle will repeat. Emulating my hero is the best path I know to teach and build confidence in others by letting them know and experience they are my Favorite, my BEST Friend in that moment.