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My Father as a Kaleidoscope of Character Strengths

By Ruth Pearce

I shared a post about my dad on LinkedIn for Father's Day - he would be astonished at the response! Although humility was not a high strength for him – he had a lot of confidence in his intellect – he did not think his story was something that would interest others. He would probably be surprised that I even wrote about him!

Perspective – Rick Kelly died 20 years ago. I miss him. He was a complicated man - like the Curate's egg, good in parts. He and my mother had a challenging history – before and after marriage. There are many ridiculous stories about his odd behavior, and then there are as many stories about his compassion. He never wanted to be a father and was dismayed to find that once a father always a father. He had a theory that parenthood ends when children turn 18. Much to his surprise he was still worrying about me when I was 30. He realized it is not a role you can shed like a job. Being a father was something he worked hard at, failed at, succeeded at, and, as I look back, was probably a burden to his mental health.

Recently I wondered aloud why I know a little about South African history. I was watching an interview with Trevor Noah and some of the details of the rules of apartheid I already recognized.

Love of learning - Then I remembered - at 13 years old, when my school project was to write about another country, my father pushed me to look further than France or Italy (I grew up in the UK). He wanted me to explore the details of a country that the students didn't know much about. I decided on South Africa because my sister's friend and her family were planning to move there. And I could interview them - something I was confident other members of my class would not be doing. After I showed my father lovely pictures of South Africa cut from magazines and wrote about the reasons this family were choosing to move to this far away country, he told me to look deeper. That was in 1976, almost 20 years before the official end of Apartheid. What I read shocked and dismayed me. And it opened my eyes to the idea that things are not always what they seem... there is generally another side to the story. My dream – announced to my parents over dinner - that we too should move to South Africa was canceled.

Social Intelligence - When I was 15, he gave away a suit, shirt & shoes to a homeless man trying to get a job. He befriended the man on his way to work, he bought him breakfast some days. He used to walk over Hungerford Bridge in London, and would great the homeless men who lived in the pedestrian tunnel. I asked why & he said, "because if I had made different turns, that would have been me".

Curiosity - At 17 I asked, "Dad, what type of people do you admire" he replied, "interesting people". I asked him, "what type of people are they?" He answered, "anyone who can share a story I don't practically anyone".

Bravery - When I was 19, I was getting ready to give a presentation at work. I was terrified and as he tried to help me prepare, I lost my temper shouting “what do you know? You love presenting!” He told me to "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable - it beats staying in your comfort zone, and it is the only way to grow." He then explained that he was always nervous before presenting. It was part of the process – what kept him alert and focused on the audience.

Love - My father helped shape my world. He shared anxiety, and perfectionism, his love of learning, his curiosity about all things, his gratitude, and his abiding sense of fairness. And he modeled bravery.

Thanks Dad️.

Fathers & leaders - how you think and behave sets the tone for your children, your friends, your family, your teams and all around them!

Your answers matter!