Life Grades on a Curve. My father imparted my favorite words of wisdom to me when I was student at Georgia Tech and beating myself up over poor grades, my first romantic relationship falling apart, and just being homesick. Life Grades on a Curve. It became my mantra, the path to my own center, a keel if you will (to borrow a nautical term which would be apropo given my Dad’s penchant for throwing money into a hole in the water… I mean, sail boats).
Life Grades on a Curve. These five words were and are exactly what I needed to hear then, and many more times in my life. We are all human beings. We will make mistakes. We will fail. We will buy horrible brown vinyl living room sets as a surprise for someone one day (right Mom?). We will hear the phone ringing, put on our glasses and say “hello”.
Life Grades on a Curve. The meaning is so simple, it’s the basal path to feeling joy. Life grades on a curve. You ride in a car, someone cuts you off – do you lean on the horn, catch them at the next light and yell at them? No, some would say that “That person might be crazy, they could have a gun.” A valid point, but what my father taught me was that exerting negative energy was pointless. That person guilty of that infraction is going to be their own punishment. Life grades on a curve, but even the curve can’t help everyone.
This past summer, my father and I spent a week painting the exterior of my home. It wasn’t just buckets of paint that we mostly got on the house, it was a father helping his son regain some self-respect. My Dad worried about my weight loss, working too much, not sleeping… just in general doing whatever I could to not think about my divorce and missing my children so much. But my Dad spent all that time with me painting and then usually using copious amounts of paint thinner to correct some of the overzealous painting… and then we’d spend a hour or so debating who actually made the mistake.
Again, the message from Dad, life grades on a curve. When you help others, there is so much more actually being done than just the task itself.
The reason I wanted to speak today was to honor my father and to hopefully, give some perspective on my hero. The following quote is from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
And that to me, sums up my father so well. I’m sure many people here today can attest to his willingness to help absolutely anyone. Look around this room and see all the lives he touched. He taught me the honest definition of family. Someone needs help, you help them – there might be questions asked, but there would be no hesitation in the help. The reflection of my father as a responsible, loving man was so evident when he passed away. The endless comfort of friends and family spending time with my mother. Seeing her grandchildren perched on her lap and the nonstop food and conversation. This is a family. This is a life.
This is what a life is, life does indeed grade on a curve, but Dad, you never needed one.