|Mom and Dad on their Honeymoon|
On the other hand, if you wanted to know how to do the right thing, you had to find my Mom. Like most women of her day, her job was to raise children and run a household. Opportunities to become a doctor, lawyer, politician or captain of industry were limited. If you asked her what she did, she would say, “I raised three sons”. That was her life’s work.
She was easy to find. In a house with three boys, the only place she could be sure she would see us each day was the kitchen table. So, that is where she held court.
Mom taught us a set of values, mostly by her example. She taught us to “do the right thing”.
What does that mean?
It means treating people with respect no matter their station in life. It means being upfront with people. It means setting a good example as she always endeavored to do. It also means having the “courage of your convictions”. She said that often when I was a young child. It was engraved in my psyche a dozen years before I knew what it meant. What does it mean? It means always act on what you believe; never back down from that
More than anything, Mom taught me that I had the potential to do anything I wanted in life. All I had to do was work hard and stay focused. She even had a little ditty to remind me. It went like this:
Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
Until your good is better and your better best.
There was a corollary to this concept. It was a rule actually. A ‘B’ is not an acceptable grade.
Married at 18 and a mother at 20, Mom was still growing up herself when I was a young boy. Yet, she had the wisdom to know that sons are not like daughters.
There has been much written about mothers and daughters. The best of it is captured in a famous poem by Julia Kasdorf titled "What I Learned from my Mother". But, the relationship between mothers and sons is different. While women of my mother’s generation prepared their daughters for a lifelong relationship, they prepared their sons to fly the coop. There is a process of letting go that begins in the teen years and culminates in the departure for college. Sons must be ready to take on the world.
American society – our freedoms, our Constitution, the free enterprise system – was based upon a shift in the teachings of philosophers. In his best-selling book, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?, Michael Sandel contrasts the teachings of eighteenth century philosophers like Immanuel Kant with the ancient Greeks such as Aristotle. Kant argued that “principles of justice that define our rights should not rest on any particular concept of virtue. A just society respects each person’s freedom to choose his own conception of what is just”. It was a perfect anti-dote to the abuses of European kings who ruled during the preceding era.
Over the last couple of centuries, our freedom has fostered a diverse society where the norms of behavior that I grew up with have split apart. It is often said that we are “a nation of laws”. So, if we are to tolerate diversity of behavioral norms, we then must rely upon our elected representatives to set forth what behavior is legal and what behavior is punishable.
A good friend of mine often asks the philosophical question, “When did we go from being a principle based society to a rules based society?” It’s a good question. But, the timing doesn’t really matter. What matters is that’s where we are: a society whose standards of behavior are set by what is legal not what is principled. That’s a much lower standard.
The ancient Greeks, like Aristotle, taught that society should reflect the virtue of its people. A virtuous society therefore is created by people who agree on standards of virtue. Although she never studied the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, Mom would agree with Aristotle. She was a principled woman who could not influence societal outcomes on a grand scale. Her contribution would be to raise three sons who understand virtue or principled behavior and demonstrated it in the way we dealt with the world around us.
|Mothers' Day 2011|
Though we are all different, we are also the same.
We are her life’s work -- her three sons.
Angelina “Lee” Calia passed away on July 10, 2011. We loved her very much.