I am worth it!
When I was sixteen years old, life was like a hell hole at home. My dad and I were constantly fighting. It came to this point that if I was watching television and he walked into the room, I would just shut it off and walk out of the door.
He was upset with me for many reasons. He would also embarrass me in front of my friends. Later, he would try to tell me, how much he cared and that he was eager to listen to my problems. Whenever I would test his sincerity, he would crack up and re-start his tirade. I could sense the disapproval in him that lashed out in the form of anger. He only wanted to shape me up and didn’t really want to hear me out.
Then, one day, something happened. Amongst many of his futile efforts, he once again approached me: “I know you feel as though I haven’t tried to understand you, but I want you to know that I am trying and will continue to try.”
I snapped back: “You have never understood me.” I stood up and reached for the door.
My dad called out: “Before you leave, I want to say that I’m really sorry for the way I embarrassed you in front of your friends the other night. I shouldn’t have done that.”
I whipped around and shouted with tears in my eyes: “You have no idea how much that embarrassed me!”
My dad walked up to me calmly and said softly: “Please come and sit down.”
For the first time, I actually felt that he genuinely wanted to listen to me. It was not some crap surface technique he was fooling me with. I began talking and he just listened. There was no moral evaluation and no judgement. It was as if he didn’t know my past at all. We just started on a clean slate, so much so, that it became and my mom came in to ask if we would sleep at all. I turned around to tell her that we had some more stuff to discuss. And my dad just nodded with a smile.
Later, when I asked my dad how he had managed to do it, he just said: “Because it was the right thing to do and you, my son, are worth it!”
Learning: We need to do a lot more private work inside our own mind and heart, before we begin to understand others. We have to let go off the negative spirit and past baggage inside of us first; otherwise, it will keep hindering us from understanding our loved ones.
Listening empathically means listening to others in their frame of reference. It also means that we might not be trusted initially, until others are certain of our sincerity. They will reject our overtures. But we need to keep coming back because they are worth it. And, eventually, we will win their trust and love with patience.
Life is overwhelming!
As a teenager, one thing that stands out in my mind was the feeling of being overwhelmed. I had to cope with the pressure of doing well at school, being on the debate team and being involved in three or four other extra-curricular activities simultaneously.
Though my mom was very strict about me keeping the room neat and tidy, there were times when she took over, especially when I had exams or my schedule was too time pressured. I would come home and find my whole room clean and organized. There would be a note that said: ‘Love, the Good Fairy.’ And I knew mom had just worked her head off to help me get ahead because I was so overwhelmed with what I had to do.
It really took a load off me. I would enter the spic and span room and whisper gratefully: “O thank you! Thank you!”
Learning: Little acts of kindness go a long way toward building relationships of trust and unconditional love. It could mean performing unexpected acts of service when you can sense that the other family member is struggling with his/her load of responsibilities. For example, you can wash the dishes, take the kids to the store for something they need for school, or call home to find out if the family needs something you might pick up on your way home.
Planned to the minute!
When I was fourteen years old, my dad promised to take me with him to Dubai on one of his business trips. We discussed it for three months, and finally the day came. He and I boarded the plane having planned our weekend to the minute. Dad was supposed to attend a conference all day, while I would stay at the hotel by myself. Later, we had planned to go dune bashing, and for a dow ride and dinner, etc. I couldn’t wait.
After what seemed ages, dad came to pick me up at 5:00 pm as promised for my treat time. But suddenly I saw him bump into his old friend. After warm pleasantries, he started to insist that dad and I accompany him to a thrilling cricket match at the grand Dubai stadium followed by dinner. I could almost feel my heart tear apart, as I knew how much dad loved cricket. I knew that was the end of my plans for the evening.
My dad profusely thanked his friend for the generous offer but explained to him: “Jazak Allah Khair for your kindness, but I have already promised my little angel this evening. And we are very excited to spend it together. Insha’Allah, next time, when I come to Dubai, I will see you.”
My heart just jumped with joy! My dad kept his word and, as expected, I had the time of my life that evening. It will always remain with me as one of the fondest memories of my father.”
Learning: Nothing makes a greater impact in the family than making and keeping promises. Just think about it! How much excitement, anticipation and hope is created by a single promise? Similarly, when we break them, how much heartache, anger and mistrust we create! These promises define our values and are the most vital and tender of all commitments we make.