Things I Say Behind My Parents’ Backs

If Mike D Ruled the World there would be a lot more recycling. Not cans and bottles and such, but the recycling of things I’ve previously written. Because, and I’m just guessing here, running the world would be very time consuming.

Yesterday at work I received an email that made me remember this. And since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I would re-share. Originally posted to The FaceBooks on Father’s Day, 2012

I’ve learned a lot from my father. Recently, I realized that one of the many things gained from being the eldest son of The Reverend John Earl Davis, Jr. is the skill of talking behind people’s backs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about idle gossip; I’m referring to the art of saying things about people when they are not around.

The Parental Units

The Parental Units

Related to the idle gossip, if you’re going to talk about people, Dad taught me that you don’t say anything about them that you wouldn’t say to them. Fortunately, I also inherited my father’s grin and comedic timing. I learned that with the right delivery you can look at someone and say, “you’re a chucklehead.” Then punctuate with a cheesy grin. The person might actually respond, “you know, I am kind of a chucklehead.”

But, that is not the “behind the back talking about” that caused my epiphany. A few of us were discussing one of my friends who wasn’t present, and I was saying some pretty nice things…really selling him, and I thought, “you know, these are things I’ve never said to this person” (I generally prefer to ridicule those I love when they are around).

The other instance that spurred me along this path of thinking was a recent business trip. Mr. Lauren summoned me to New York, along with most of the other managers of our company. We were in a small group session (no, Mr. Lauren didn’t really summon me and he wasn’t in the small group session). The ice breaker was “who inspires you?” The answers were pretty predictable: Ralph Lauren, Ricky Lauren, some well known athletes. My answer required little deliberation. And I found myself saying some things about my inspirations that I don’t think I’ve ever said to them:

“Okay. I’ll be the cliché. My parents inspire me. My father is a retired Methodist minister and my mother is the quintessential preacher’s wife. My dad isn’t one of those pastors who, when you meet them for the first time, immediately begins to “witness”. If you ask him about his journey of faith he is more than happy to share it with you, but it doesn’t come unsolicited. However, within a few minutes of meeting him, you just know he’s a good man. His life and the example he sets for others are his testaments. I’ve never seen my parents make a decision that adversely affected another human being. They are just good people. They inspire me to want to be a good man.”

A few years ago one of my friends was having a tough time. He had lost his job. Then his wife got really sick. I had brought this buddy home from college once or twice. He occasionally answered the phone when Mom or Dad would call; but, those are the only interactions they ever had with him. A few days after I told my parents about my bud’s situation they called me. This is how the conversation went:

  • Dad: “Michael (that’s what they call me back home). We’ve been praying for and about your friend and his family. Your mom and I give money to charity every year. We’ve decided that this year we’re going to give that money to your friend’s family. Every month or so we’ll send a Harris Teeter or restaurant gift card or a check. Would that be okay with you?”
  • Incredibly humbled son: “Dad, that’s incredible. But, I’m pretty sure that he’s not a 501c3 organization. You won’t be able to write that money off as a charitable donation.
  • Dad: “Son, that’s not why we give to charity.”

Every time I’ve related that conversation I’ve choked up. That day I thanked God for the incredible examples he blessed me with to raise me and guide me though life.

Dad and Mom, I’m sorry I say things behind your backs that I should be saying to your faces. Thank you so much for inspiring me to be a better person. You have set the bar pretty high on the “good people to emulate” scale…and I know I fall short a lot. But, please know the guidance, the leadership, your love and friendship are appreciated and revered.

Happy Father’s Day.

Love, Michael

Dad and Elvis fixing a chair

Dad and Elvis fixing a chair

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