Lessons from Mom and Dad | Strength and Courage

I am the son of Indian immigrants, from Kerala, India.  Mom and Dad came to America in the early 70s from Calcutta, India.  They came to choose a better life for their future children.  Mom got on a plane with eight American dollars in her pocket, hoping her friends would receive the telegram and be at John F. Kennedy airport when she landed. (They were!) From that moment, to the thousands that have followed, she showed strength and courage.  Imagine, moving from tropical India, to New York, New York.  She didn’t know what snow was.  My dad didn’t know how to drive, but he went on to make a living for 11 years driving in Manhattan!  My parents didn’t know how to cook turkey, but when my first-grade teacher heard that I had chicken curry for Thanksgiving, she called my mom on the phone and yelled at her.  (Those were different, less culturally sensitive times).  Needless to say, the next year, we had the spiciest Turkey ever cooked in America!  It was delicious.  

Every day, in the minute choices from what we would eat, to when they would wake up, to when they would work, they chose strength and courage by putting in effort, energy and time to provide for my brother and me.  Twelve-hour days were a norm for my mom as a nurse, and my dad put in 14- to 16-hour days as a driver and then a small business owner.  Every day, without complaint, they woke up, sought the Lord, loved us well, and went to work.  Strength and courage were the foundation upon which they built our family.

It wasn’t just my parents. Strength and courage was a hallmark of the close community of Malayalee parents that formed our community.  My aunties and uncles followed the same creed – worship God and rely on Him, provide for your family, bless your children (and now grandchildren) with opportunity.  They each modeled strength and courage in their unique ways.

“Because of Mom & Dad and our community and culture, strength and courage is not just a phrase for me, but a lifestyle. ”

Because of Mom & Dad and our community and culture, strength and courage is not just a phrase for me, but a lifestyle.  This lifestyle was modeled for me, I’ve intentionally tried to emulate it, and I’ve realized that it requires daily choices of surrender.  In every situation, I want to choose strength and courage. Not the easy way or the most traditional path, but the one that requires strength and courage.  Like Mom and Dad, this applies to the small things - how I spend my time, what I eat, when I run, stepping into the hard conversation, and the list goes on and on.  This isn’t easy for me. I enjoy vegging, relaxing, eating chocolate and sleeping. Strength and courage is a daily, moment-by-moment decision, and in each of those moments, I draw on the example of my parents.

My parents taught me strength and courage in the everyday choices.  What about you?  Who have been the biggest influence in your life around strength and courage? What are choices that you want to be strong and courageous in, but just need a little extra encouragement along the way to get there?

Stay tuned for Post 2, where I’ll tell you about the lessons I learned from my awesome wife, Susie.  She’s amazing.  We’ve been married for 19 years, and everyday gets even more precious.