Today would be my dad’s 52nd birthday. He committed suicide in 2001 at the age of 39 after struggling for years with a debilitating, painful disease that had no cure. I miss him every day. But I remember everything he taught me in the 17 years I knew him. He taught me to work hard, treat people with the same kindness you’d like to be shown, and to appreciate everything you have.
He also taught me to learn everything you can about the world around you. As a child, he was raised in poverty in Louisiana, but at the age of 17, he joined the Navy and he got to travel all over the world. He’d bring back souvenirs- toys and clothes like the kids in other parts of the world had. When I was older, he explained that while most of the other sailors went straight to the bars when their ship landed in some other country, he explored the markets and looked for the restaurants where the locals ate so he could experience new foods (like barnacle soup, which he said tasted as awful as it sounds).
My dad had a love and curiosity for the world that was contagious. And I definitely inherited that. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much outside the US, but I certainly enjoy learning about the way people live around the world, and what they care about and believe. I collect circulated foreign coins and have 800 or so from at least 110 countries. Those coins are like my trip around the world. I like to imagine the people that might’ve once carried them in their pockets or bags.
I try to teach some of this curiosity to my charges as well. When we look at a world map, I talk about what those places are like, no matter how little I know. And if I don’t know the answer to a question about a country, I enthusiastically find the answer somewhere! You could listen to music from around the world, or compare the art of different countries. You could talk about differences in food, or clothes, or houses. You could listen to examples of different languages. There are so many ways to explore and learn about our big, big world!
Thank you, Daddy, for helping me see how amazing our world can be! Happy Birthday!