When we think of people being examples, those who come to mind may set standards - religious leaders, senators, judges. Or we may think of people who have achieved fame or fortune in sports, music, or the movies.
Military heroes can be examples. But we tend to overlook the fact that every day we are influenced by everyday people around us, our families in particular.
Ever watch a little boy walking with his dad? Their gaits will be identical. Without ever thinking about it, the son will mimic his father's walk. In a thousand unspoken ways, children will model themselves after their parents.
Extended family is also important for those lucky enough to have close contact. I had time to reflect on this last fall when my mother broke her hip eleven days after moving into an assisted living apartment. I went up to Massachusetts and, during those three weeks in the New England autumn, had something that I haven't enjoyed enough of for a long time - down time to spend with extended family.
I spent some wonderful time with my Uncle Chick and Aunt Mary, always referred to as "Chick 'n Mary." One of my most popular columns ever was the one I wrote a few years ago titled "Chicken Mary." This couple, now in their mid 70s, have been sweethearts since junior high and have always been an example of what a marriage can and should be. They are also much more than the example of love lived well.
Each enjoys life every single day, sometimes together, often with friends gathered over a lifetime. Each had wonderful careers before retiring 13 years ago. Each, separately and/or together, enjoys hobbies - golf, gardening, bridge - and revel in the joy of grown children and growing grandchildren. Each does community service, the kind of meaningful, close-up help that one person provides another.
Chick helps elderly individuals reconcile monthly bank statements and has even interceded to keep a woman from being evicted from her home, who he then helped qualify for social security disability. And there is so much more to that fascinating story that isn't told here.
As I enjoyed the company of this aunt and uncle I realized how very proud I am to be their niece. Each, separately and together, is truly wonderful and a truly happy person. What a great example they set for their children, their friends, and me! I wanted to be in their presence, study what it is they do, live as they live, and be like them. How I hope they rubbed off on me through all those formative years up through today.
I could write another column on Uncle Don and Aunt Muriel as well, two totally different, but also wonderful people, who also entertained and influenced me. But, in this column, I will go to another event that impacted me recently - my nephew's wedding.
David married Anastasia in Washington, DC and friends came from South America, England and Scotland, as well as from all over the US for the weekend celebrations. Because dozens came so far, we all stayed in a hotel and gathered in a hospitality suite between the luncheons, receptions and wedding itself. The only thing everyone had in common was knowing the bride or groom. We could not have been more different, with one common denominator. We all shared real joy that weekend. If you have been to as many weddings as I have, you'll agree they can be fabulous or they can be deadly. This was the best ever, ever! Why?
I think David and Anastasia's wedding was wonderful because they took it so seriously and they took it seriously because they were brought up to value what is truly important. Both sets of parents are the originals. All four parents were fully present and have been for the quarter of a century of bringing up these two people. These parents set good examples every day and they carried over to their children.
There was a sense of solemnity that anchored the great joy and celebration. This was far more than a grand party; this was the most important decision and commitment of their lives. It showed.
I'm not the same person I was as I left Massachusetts after moving my mum into that assisted living apartment in September. I had no idea how momentous two family events would be in the two months following and how much they would impact me. While we treasure our examples, we need to remember that we are all being examples all the time. Wow!
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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