Seven priceless life lessons I learnt from my dad
What would be the best legacy for a father to leave his children? The answer is crystal clear. Living a life of integrity, humility and generosity. I am one of the privileged few to have a father who embodies these three fundamental pillars to live an effective and purposeful life.
My dad, Aston Brown, is the seventh of 10 siblings and was born and bred in Greenwich Town, Kingston. Throughout his roller-coaster life, I have observed first hand and reflected on the ways in which my father was able to deal with the many challenges he was faced with in life. Consequently, I can now share the seven most important lessons, inter alia, that I have learnt from my dad.
1. Love is not taught but demonstrated: I could literally cite hundreds of instances when my dad showed his fatherly love in a tangible way but the most vivid example was when he sold his van to help finance his son Aston Jr’s studies in mechanical engineering at The University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
That van was the sole mode of transport for his family, relatives, friends and colleagues. He used to pick up so many people in the mornings to take them to and from school and work. Since then, he has had to rely totally on the hassle of taking public transport.
The most striking example of his love and care was also manifested as a devoted and faithful husband to his beloved wife, Naomi. During her tragic illness of leukaemia in 1994, he was there every step of the way taking care of her, supporting and loving her until her ultimate graduation.
As a teenager, this experience brought home to me in no uncertain terms that love is caring and anticipating the needs of another for life without expecting anything in return. My dad lived this mandate and continues to do so.
He finds no sacrifice too great.
In addition, his daughter, Suzette, who lives in Florida, remarks, “My dad does not say much, but he does a lot. His actions and deeds make him the man he is. He never complains. He listens and then acts.”
2. Never complain, always be thankful: Never have I heard my father complain about anything. He chooses to be grateful to God and those around him for all the little blessings in life. His attitude is truly remarkable and rare.
Two years ago, my father was extremely sick and almost died from a ruptured appendix coupled with blood poisoning and pneumonia. He never complained or wallowed in self-pity. He was just grateful to be alive. Only nine months ago, he almost succumbed to death again from chronic renal failure, which has led him to undergo dialysis to sustain his life. Notwithstanding, even today he continues to have a heart of gratitude to God for dear life. His smile, gentle words and tenderness give credence to this fact.
3. Be courteous and respectful to everyone: My dad is a gentleman at heart, never rowdy or impolite, but always well-mannered and deferential to all. Even on his worst day, he greets everyone he passes on the road with a smile. Family, friends, relatives and even strangers would all agree that my dad is well bred and humble.
4. Help everyone you can whenever you can, however you can: My dad listens to people’s concerns and then tries to meet their most urgent needs, even if that means great personal sacrifice. Once I met some Peruvian tourists in Half-Way Tree while returning home from university and with whom I was practising my Spanish. It so happened that they were in a bind and needed a place to stay. After calling my dad and explaining their dilemma, he told me to invite them to stay at home in his room for the time they needed, until they had sorted out their issues. He sacrificed the comforts of his room and bed for a week and slept on the sofa in order to save them from sleeping on the streets.
5. Be caring and compassionate: My father dedicates lots of his time weeping with those who weep, comforting and consoling the broken-hearted. He is always giving a helping hand at nine-nights and funerals. Maria Bello, a friend of mine from high school, comments: “A few words alone cannot describe Mr Brown. He loves his family dearly and has sacrificed much for their betterment. He genuinely cares about people and loves to meet and spend time with people regardless of their status or background.” What’s more, being blessed with six children and nine grandchildren, he constantly cares for each individual in his own unique way.
6. Make the best out of opportunities: While on his visit to Spain, my dad became part of my production team of my European dancing tours in countries like Holland and England as Jamaica’s first performer and instructor of Middle Eastern dance and fusion. My dad seized the opportunity to become my personal assistant in the dressing room, as well as my photographer and videographer. He has always been adaptable.
7. Live with joy, passion and laughter: When it comes to fun and adventure, my dad is first in line. He is passionate about meeting and helping people, learning new things and exploring new places. He loves a good laugh. Ana Hernandez, former Spanish diplomat, recalls his presence at an International Halloween party in Madrid. “Mr Brown is blessed with a spirit of joy and celebration,” she said. The organisers awarded him first prize in the contest for his depiction of Sleeping Dead. “He is such a friendly, fun-loving person and, no doubt, a pleasure to be with!”
In addition, Dr Dahiana Marmolejos, his dentist in Madrid (who gave him a dental overhaul which accounts for his current winning smile), commented that once, when she had invited him to the beach in the north of Spain, and even though the water was cold, this man from the sultry tropics ran straight into the water, knee-height, shouting and laughing in excitement, “Come in, come in!” She added: “I am astounded by how joyful and funny Aston is. He is always smiling, and giving off positive vibes.”
These seven life lessons have helped and guided me through my personal life. Moreover, my father continues to be a great source of inspiration and strength in my daily life.
Since March 2015, Aston Brown has continued to serve as global ambassador to the international NGO One Love International (OLI) where he has worked indefatigably to help OLI advance and achieve its global mission and objectives. Thanks to his sedulous efforts and invaluable contribution, OLI has, since its founding in 2013, impacted hundreds of individuals positively in 136 cities/towns, from 53 countries on five continents.
I am indeed grateful to my father for being my mentor, role model and friend. I am the man I am today thanks to this great man of love and valour. Thank you, Daddy. You are the absolute best and I am so proud of you.
- Krishna Brown, former head boy of Kingston College, and director of One Love International. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.