Jan. 23, 2010: Grandson Has Good Role Models Who Make a Difference

One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is my regular telephone conversations with grandson, Brian. He is just getting his feet wet in the business world and is trying to adequately provide for a wife and child during these fragile economic times. He is finding that it isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies.

Somewhere along the way Brian has discerned that his grandfather survived and even prospered after living through the same kind of times in which he now lives and he seems to tolerate if not enjoy my unsolicited advice. Perhaps deep down in the recesses of his brain he figures, “If Pa did it, surely I can, too.” All my grandsons love me and respect me but none of them have ever mistaken me for a rocket scientist.

In a recent discussion, we were talking about career choices and how to define success. What I told him was totally counter to what I would have defined as success in my earlier days. I suggested that whatever he does, he does with passion and to be sure that he has the potential to make this a better world. Money is important – you have to have it to pay the bills – but it is more about doing something worthwhile.

Growing up with parents who had survived the Great Depression, it was drilled in me to have the security of working for a big company. Therefore, I defined my success as a nice climb up the corporate ladder, a decent paycheck and a better-than-average pension.

I told Brian that his mom and dad and his aunt and uncle are successful in ways that don’t involve a corner office or a company car. My son and son-in-law are public school teachers – a sometimes thankless and oft times unappreciated job. They deal daily with disinterested parents who view them as baby-sitters, federal, state and local bureaucracies, dysfunctional boards of education, uptight administrators and kids who are winding their watch until they can quit. And yet these two boys and thousands of teachers just like them put up with all this crap because they know they are impacting young lives in a positive and perhaps permanent way. Not many of us have that opportunity.

My daughter-in-law, Jackie Yarbrough, is a registered nurse at WellStar Kennestone in Marietta where she has worked for the past 25 years or so. Actually, she is a manager now. She is in a department that has something to do with birthing babies but I’m not sure what. Some things I don’t need to know. All I know is that she is helping people at a time when they need it. That is good enough for me.

My daughter, Maribeth, is the heart and soul and executive director of the Cochran Mill Nature Center in Fairburn. This is a facility that specializes in environmental education and the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Thousands of young children go through the center each year and learn how to take care of an environment that many of us have ignored, not understanding it is the only one we have.

The point I am trying to make to grandson Brian is that success is not necessarily how much money you have in the bank or the title on your business card. It is better defined by what my mentor and Marietta native the late Jasper Dorsey drilled in my head. “We are put on this earth for only one reason: To leave it better than we found it.”

I truly believe my son and son-in-law and my daughter and daughter-in-law are doing just that. There is not a day that goes by that one or all of them don’t have a positive impact on someone, whether it is showing a young mother how to care for her newborn or teaching a child how and why to recycle or inspiring a teenager to experience the joy of learning – these four will certainly leave this world better than they found it.

I have no idea what Brian will end up doing with his life but he had some terrific role models to emulate. He is a lucky man. I am, too.