Thursday, December 22, 2011

5 Lessons my father taught me

As 2011 draws to a close, one of the best things we can do is reflect, simply ponder another year that has raced by.

In fact, as I sit and write this in the crisp early morning of a wintery LA, I begin to think about my pops. Although I am a father of 3 wonderful children, and three amazing grandchildren, I do know that I owe so much of my life's journey to the foundational impact that my dad had on my life.

Pat Wienand's life was not easy. When, as a 12 year old, his father died in his arms, it was a prophetic announcement that this was not going to be an easy journey. One of 8 kids, he was sent from Johannesburg to the coast where his mid teens were spent working as a postman by day and going to night school to finish his education. I guess 'Oups' never had his teenage years. They were taken from him as he was taught to survive.

Through the tough years of apprenticeship to the harsh lessons of starting several construction companies, he was schooled out there on his own, where a friend sometimes turned foe and where trust was sometimes ill-founded.

This rough, tough construction pioneer, taught me some of life's most invaluable lessons. Of course he was a strong uncompromising dad, but set a standard that he lived by that he imprinted in our lives. Here are some of these lessons:

1. "Never give up" - "Oups' was not a man of many words. When they came they were weighty and to be headed. When I was benched from the starter role in the High School Rugby team [unfairly I thought, especially as the captain in the first game], I was devastated. In the emotional anger of a 17 year old, I was ready to be done with this mismanagement. Not with Oups. He gave me the 'never give up' speech. You get back on the bicycle and ride again. No matter what life throws at you, you simply do not give up. You fight your way back, no matter the pain or trauma. It came back to stand me in good stead all those years later...

2. "The world does not owe you a living. You have to get out there and take it" - 'Oups' really wrestled with God about the death of his dad. So there was never any sense of 'entitlement'. The world owed you nothing! There was no sense of being owed anything. It was all by the sweat of your brow that you took on the challenge of life. You have one life, make it work. What you get is what you labor for. Work hard, work long and work sacrificially.

3. "Your sisters are going to get married and have kids but you need to get yourself ready to provide for a family." - To many today that does not sound very PC. Our parents were from a different era. They emerged out of the post-war tough times. This comment was not intended to demean women but to empower men. I remember these talks well. I was an educational minimalist. I was comfortable with the grades that kept my parents happy. Every now and again, the grades fell and I got the 'you must take responsibility for your family' speech. Today I am the one who gives it. In an age of egalitarianism, many men have stepped away from responsibility and let the women carry them, as they bask in their selfish ways. I never was allowed to consider that. For that I am truly grateful.

4. "Live by your convictions, no matter what the cost" - 'Oups' was and is, a man of convictions. He was not swayed by the opinions of the crowd but held firmly to his convictions even if they were not popular. That was drilled into me. I am so grateful that popularity was never the highest value to which we aspired. Truth was [well at least our perception of truth]. For some 27 years I have led 2 churches. I cannot tell you how often I had to strengthen myself with these words. Popular opinion falters at the altar of the moment. Convictions are a life time traveling companions. Find them, hold them, lead with them.

5. "Live generously, especially be aware of the plight of the poor" - maybe its because he came from such poverty, but 'Oups' was always very sensitive of the plight of the poor. Sometimes mercy overwhelmed wisdom, but he always cared for those who had less. When I was young, we were very middle class, yet there was a spirit of giving that filled the family. There was not much money to give, but there was always a meal to offer, a ride to give, a bed to sleep on, an act of kindness to offer. I hope I am a generous man. To give is better than to receive. The bible teaches me that - and 'Oups' showed me how it works.

There are many more that these 5 things that come to mind immediately. I salute a gift from God - my dad whose foundation has fashioned me, formed me and forged my life ahead of me.


  1. There are some great words here. Anyone fatherless could build a life with these these words.