Question of the Day: No. 531

By Troy Headrick

This past weekend, I watched a couple of episodes of Family Pictures USA, a great program where the host, filmmaker Allen Thomas Harris, travels around America asking people to share old photos and talk about their ancestors and family histories.  One of those who showed pics and was interviewed made an interesting comment.  He said that looking at old photos is the clearest way of understanding that we stand on the shoulders of others, that we are who we are because of those who played key roles in our lives early on.

His comment got me thinking.   We often forget that we grew up in extended families and that influential others have helped shape us, in all sorts of ways.  So, with all that in mind, here’s today question:

Who played an important role in your life and what did you learn (or “get from”) that person?

This is great opportunity to acknowledge a key person in your life and to share a little bit about that individual.

I look forward to hearing your stories.  Thanks for participating!

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

57 thoughts on “Question of the Day: No. 531

  1. My parents – they aren’t perfect but, ultimately, they’ve only ever wanted the best for me and I believe their love has always had the final say. My dad taught me the importance of being honest. My mum taught me what unconditional love is.

    1. Hi, AP2. In some parts of the world and among some people, lots of folks are having a hard time distinguishing between telling the truth and outright lying, often for political or ideological purposes. There are still lots of honest people out there (as you demonstrate) but gaslighting is becoming a kind of artform. It sounds like you were fortunate growing up. Too many people confuse love with other things, like lust and control. Too many people grew up in families were there was no love and so they don’t know how to love as a result.
      Those two traists will take you everywhere you want to go, my friend. Thanks.

  2. Very true. Photos are very crucial but we may under -estimate this. They do remind us where we come from and the important people in our journey of life. For me, it’s my mum. I wish in had more photos of her. She taught me so many life lessons; of patience, love and kindness to persistence, good business skills and many others. Forever I’ll treasure her in heart, thoughts and actions.

    1. Now that I’m older, I wish that I had taken more photos too. My maternal grandmother was like a mother to me. When she died, some members of the family got control of the photos and weren’t very sharing. I’ve often noticed that when a strong matriarch passes away, the family begins to squabble and break apart. Your mother sounds like a wonderful person. She will forever remain in your heart and memories. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

      1. I relate to that feeling. Yes they do. They are usually the foundations of the family and their absence means a bit of regressions, a few mistakes and challenges before things start getting better. For many, it’s when they are gone that we realise the weight they carried, the crucial role in the family and the gap of their eternal love forever hags around. Blessings To our departed loved one🙏🏻

      2. You are so right. It’s important that we think about our dearly departed ones as often as we can. We can keep them “alive” if they live in our minds.

  3. My parents shaped me but later I have had some teachers that gave me some part of my personality because I adored them. For example, one of them gave me the idea that I need to feel so ingrained in what I do that I should lose track of time. This is a test for my dedication.

    1. My third grade teacher was actually my great-aunt. She was the first really memorable teacher I had. She was always so creative and was the first to encourage me to ask questions and think openly. Later in life, when I was adult, I learned that she was a prolific diarist and made many beautiful paintings. I always thought she was just an older woman whom I was related to, but she was really avantgarde in her thinking and behavior (for that time in America and for the small town she lived in). Thanks Betul.

  4. My grandmother. She taught me you could stand up for yourself by remaining calm and respectful rather than yelling. She taught me that families bond around the kitchen table. She shaped the person I am and the mother I try to be

    1. I really worry about bonding right not. Families are fragmented. Society is polarized. Part of the problem is that we don’t spend quality time together; we no longer have substantive conversations. We’re captivated by our phones and such. Your grandmother sounds like a very wise a cool person. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Thank you. I’m blessed to still have dinners with my kids, weekly visits with my mom and my mother in law lives with us. Hopefully my kids learn the importance of family from me

      2. I grew up in sort of an extended family. Many would see such an arrangement as old-fashioned, but there are great benefits of multiple generations living together. The young get to benefit from the experience of wise elders and the old spend time around energetic youngsters who are just getting their start in the world. I don’t think it’s any accident that multi-generational families living together has long been the practice in many parts of the world. The system has been around forever because it works and has value for all involved.

  5. Hello hello. It has to be my grandmother. I recently even shared this on my blog, she and her family had to leave their house during the india pakistan partition and move to india with nothing but what they were wearing. She has never had any ill feelings or hatered for anyone and has lived life as a true inspiration. If I am half as good as she is when I am her age, I’d consider myself to have won life 🙂

    1. When a person has had the sort of experiences you describe in your comment it’s so easy to become angry and hateful. That your grandmother was able to maintain her dignity and humanity despite her challenges is a testimony to her goodness. The world needs more people like your grandmother. Why is it that so many people are writing about their grandmothers here, in these comments? Thanks so much for telling us about your great matriarch.

  6. It’s difficult to narrow down just one person. Especially when many important instances in life bear the imprints of different people. I’m unsure whether good or bad plays a part here, but learning always comes in a neutral form. And some of the most wisest lessons are learned through unpleasant and painful moments. Should we thank the people responsible for this? I know your question was more specific with a positive note intended. But life is a two way street with positives and negatives chalking out their own routes, and people handing out life lessons through their wisdoms, experiences, dumbness, and harshness. Pick what you may and drive on. More role models await you. 🙂

    1. Hi. I think you can answer this one any way you want. You can, for example, include those who had a positive impact even if they didn’t treat you very well. I had some real “teachers” of that sort. Or you can include more than one person.

  7. The person who influenced me most during my childhood was my grandmother, she was apivotal part of my life growing up, and we were very close. She died when I was 14, and I never quite got over the loss of her. xoxo

    1. Hi, Carol anne. Look back at all the comments and notice how many people are writing about their grandmothers. Why is that the case? Grandmothers must be universally amazing people!

      My last grandparent, my maternal grandmother, died a bit more than a year ago at the age of 103. She taught me many things, including toughness. She had many health problems but never complained or was consumed by self-pity.

      Thanks for telling us about your grandmother. She sounds wonderful.

  8. The problem with many families are that they don’t talk. We don’t know if Great Aunt Tillie had an illness that we should know about. When we go to a new Doctor they ask whether relatives had illness’ and many of us don’t know, because they don’t talk about it. I just tell them “We are English, we don’t talk!”

    1. It sounds like the English and the Americans are cut from the same cloth. Americans prize “independence” so much that they pretty much separate themselves from family at an early age. I was like that. Most are. That general disconnectedness has spread into society. That explains why the US feels like it’s coming apart at the seams. England must feel like that too. Does it?

  9. I wish I’d had an extended family. Mom alienated the family on my father’s side and we hardly ever saw her family. I had a cousin 2 years older than me I’d hang out on the bus to school with but that was about it.

    1. i suppose few people have the sort of idealized families that we witness on TV programs and such. My family certainly was unstable as hell. My parents divorced, remarried,and then divorced again. My mother went on to marry again and divorce. It probably explains a lot about me and my personality. We do our best with the circumstances that are dealt us, Fred. Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. My first (not the only) one on the list would be my maternal grandmother. She was, among many other things, my teacher of what ‘unconditional love’ means. She had her family around the depression of the 1930s, and she also taught me how to stretch a food budget. But I guess more than anything, she was the only person I knew growing up that ‘had my back’ when things were rocky in my relationship with my parents. She didn’t say anything at the time to them, nor try to help them discover a better way of parenting (she felt it wasn’t her place), but she represented safety to me in a world that otherwise often seemed frightening and very unsafe.

    1. Your situation sounds a lot like mine. My parents had a tempestuous marriage and ended up divorcing (twice). I was lucky that my maternal grandparents lived right down a gravel road, so I could always go there. Then, during a period when my mother was “finding herself,” I lived with my grandparents. They were the Rocks of Gibraltar. All around me, the waves tossed and foamed. Still, I guess I turned out ok. How about you?

  11. My parents- Though they come from a different generation they adapted themselves to grow us up, they accepted who we are and helped us mould our selves. Dad taught me to live with simplicity. Mom taught me how to be an all rounded woman and be confident in who you are.

  12. Swami Chinmayananda of Chinmaya Mission played a key part in much of my young life. I was interested from a young age in anything ‘different’ from theosophy to meditation to healing etc. The Swami’s Dayananda and Chinmayananda both provided wonderful education in Sanskrit, Vedanta teachings and how to put these teachings into practice in one’s life. I have had many journeys since then but my exposure to over 20 years of study and teaching myself gave me a stability which has served me in my whole life and although I have many other wonderful teachers these two came to mind. What I learnt most from them is that every person can be your teacher. There is a story about Sankara who was a famous philosopher in the Vedanta teachings. He was walking through the market place with his supporters and he saw a beggar. Some of his supporters ushered the beggar out of the way thinking the man was a ‘nobody’. At one instant Sankara’s eyes met the beggars and immediately Sankara fell to his knees to pay homage to the beggar. Sankara’s supporters questioned him how could this be. He said that in that moment he saw his own teacher, the great divine in that beggars eyes. And in this way we should honour everyone and ourselves for the wonderful gift of life and creation. This is what these two Swami’s taught me the most which I will have for the rest of my life and beyond. Thank you 🙂

    1. It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful life full of many teachers. Did you happen to have your experiences while you were living overseas? Like you, I have always sought out interesting experiences, which culminated in me leaving the US, my home country, and spending approximately two decades in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Like you, I believe that there are great teachers everywhere. One simply needs to pay attention to find them. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  13. I’d like to say my late grandfather had given me positive impact in my upbringing. He taught me to think creatively, be myself, and always be patient. When he’s gone, my experience is all that I have in shaping the rest of me to become who I am now. I think I have nothing in common with my parents or even sister, so I can’t really say they influence me in any way…

    1. Thank you for speaking up for grandfathers. There have been lots of comments about grandmothers, but only yours about your father’s father. I also had fantastic grandfathers, especially my mother’s father. He was a cowboy who wanted me to follow in his footsteps. Alas, I was too bookish a boy to do so, but he loved me unconditionally. It sounds like your grandfather is a loving and giving person. You say that he taught you to be creative. Is he an artist by any chance? Thanks for the comment.

      1. He really is. I miss him. He taught me how to draw and he was quite a painter himself. My drawings can never be as good as his paintings. He’s also really fond of animals so that’s one thing we have in common

        Now I that think of it, it was him who got me interested in dinosaurs

      2. Cool. I’m an artist as well. Do you have any of your (or his) work online that I could check out? If so, let me know where to find it. I’d love to see some.

      3. No, I don’t think so, sorry. He only painted for fun and back then we weren’t active on online; limited internet access, so he has no online presence at all. Some of his arts are still at my aunt’s home, though

  14. I would have to say, my twin sister. That relationship and always being compared and put into a position of opposition and competition was very impactful and influenced my development in such a way I am still discovering just how deep those entanglements go.

    1. I’ve heard that twins have a special understanding. Do you ever feel your sister’s pain or know what she’s thinking? I ask because you say her connections with you are very “deep.” What do you mean by that if you don’t mnd my asking. Thanks.

      1. Depth not in the fact that I can feel, physically, what she is experiencing, but just that every pivotal moment in my life has always been shared with my sister. Certainly this is true of all siblings, but I only have the experience with my twin sister so I cannot compare it with a bond with a sibling that is older or younger than me. Additionally, being a twin puts you in this constant position to be compared to one another. This created, for both of us, some of our ‘issues’ moving into adulthood. This issues have produces both of our greatest strengths and weaknesses. For me it was a persistent sense of unworthiness and the need to prove myself, for her it was perfectionism and the pressure to maintain this illusion.

      2. Reading your comment reminds me how rare your experience is. Many people have siblings, but few have been born out of the same mother and at the same time. That’s got to create some very interesting experiences and challenges. Thank you for sharing that.

  15. It seems grandmothers are quite important in many lives. Mine taught me the meaning of unconditional love and sacrifice for others. She was pivotal in my life and is unforgettable.

    1. Hi. I’m sure you’ve noticed how many people have mentioned their grandmothers in these comments. That’s pretty interesting but not terribly surprising. In fact, more have mentioned grandmothers than have mentioned their mothers. Your grandmother sounds wonderful. Mine were too. Unfortunately, both are now gone. I think of them very often though. Thanks for sharing your and her story.

      1. I was my pleasure. My mother passed when I was very young and I became part time ward of Grandma who after raising her own 6 kids took me in as though I were her 7th. 🙂

      2. My situation was a bit similar. My parents’ marriage was unstable. Luckily, I lived in a rural area not far from my maternal grandparents who were the stabilizing force in my life at that time. I actually lived with them for quite a long time. It was a wonderful upbringing. They taught me so many important lessons about life and how to be a good person. (I hope that I learned some of those, and I try to put them into practice every day.) I have checked out your blog and will return to read more. Have you published any of your poetry in places other than your blog? As a younger man, I started writing poetry and had the luck of publishing quite a few here and there.

      3. I was fortunate enough to not only have wonderful grandparents but to spend summers on their farm. So I had a dual existence, farm girl, city girl. I do have a book that is on free to read.
        thank you and I appreciate your visit.

  16. For me it’s my parents that are my inspiration. They don’t judge, but their response to certain behaviour I displayed growing up resonated with me more than anything. They have been my age and they have experienced life, albeit a generation back, but they say that you should respect your elders. Also, the proverbs you hear as a child ring true. You can’t choose your family and I don’t have a relationship with my auntie or cousin. I have a 7 people in total who I have love for and admiration.

    I used to think that my teachers were of the same ilk. However, I’ve grown to become a little bit cynical with the education you receive from the age of 5 through to 16, and if you wish you can have many more years of education. Impressionable children told a predetermined selection of information that they have little use for in the real world. Then as you enter your teens you are told that the next 5 years and then your GCSE exams are life defining. In England we are taught either the German or French language. If you speak English you really don’t need a second language. Focus on the skills that you are going to need for life. Trigonometry in mathematics, can we not learn how to do a tax return instead? That’s going to be more useful for people. If you are giving people too much information though I guess they have the potential to be better than you are. Political regimes and governments are not being under pressure from their constituents to enforce their promises as they silence them, then cause diversion from mass hysteria in the media to incite fighting among themselves and divide and conquer strikes again.

    1. Thanks, Rochdalestu. You make a lot of really interesting and insightful points in your comment. It sounds like you had really good parents. So many people are judgmental that it’s rare to find people who are more open to diverse people and views. I bet you are less judgmental as a result. Am I right? Your point that it’s impossible to choose who we are related to resonates a lot with me. For example, I have a brother I am completely estranged from because he’s so different from me. He is VERY judgmental and also bigoted. I can’t abide folks who look down on others because of the color of their skin or religious or sexual affiliation. So I disassociated myself from him. Why hang out with toxic and hateful people?

      1. I’m just not in a position to judge anyone as I don’t know the full story about their situation. If I’m asked for my opinion on something by them then I can give them my thoughts on it. I have my own opinions about various subjects in life and society that you might have a completely different view on. I’d never force you change your mind and to my way of thinking. Nor bring up a topic for discussion about anything. I have my opinions and I will answer any questions about anything when prompted. People sometimes pose a question to simply light the blue touch paper

  17. My cricket coach in high school, who also played for our team because we played in a senior grade. As is the case with being a wicket-keeper, you spend a lot of time next to the fielders near you, with time between deliveries to talk. He taught me how to have meaningful conversation when you have only a short time, and that you can talk with someone once a year and it some of the most worthwhile time you might spend.

Leave a Reply