One of my favorite commercials is an AT&T commercial for their 4G LTE phone. Two guys are tailgating at a football game, sitting in their chairs, and are way ahead of everyone else because of the speed of their network and phone. Throughout AT&T’s 4G campaign, the overwhelming theme of speed of information is drilled home. From the office guy who sounds off that he wasn’t invited to the Taco party to the Flash Mob dancer that didn’t get the text to start an hour later, AT&T is pushing speed.
In the business world and especially in my own world, speed and accuracy of information is extremely important. However, in our never-ending quest to share, learn and gain new knowledge through technology, we’re sometimes too distracted to understand the whole story and learn some great life lessons. I wanted to share a personal story that inspires me when I think I am having a rough day. This is the story of Joe Lee, my Father-in-Law.
At 14, Joe was forced to leave his homeland and move to America. Joe’s family was in dire straits and if he couldn’t provide for his mother and sister, as well as his aunt and two cousins, they may have died. So Joe got on a boat, alone, and traveled thousands of miles to a land where he didn’t speak the language and hardly knew a soul.
Joe didn’t complain, but instead did exactly what he had to do. He forfeited his childhood for his family’s survival. He worked tirelessly in a laundromat, always sacrificing everything but the most basic needs so he could send money home to his family. After many years in the US, Joe was able to get married and have 5 beautiful daughters, but life was still difficult for him. Even though the Army rejected him due to his flat feet, he would work 12-15 hours a day as a cook, bartender or waiter to feed his growing family. Tragedy struck when Joe’s wife, May, died from cancer, when their youngest daughter was only a few years old. Joe’s mother left her homeland, never to return, for the US to raise five girls she never met. After all, it was Joe who did the same many years earlier for her.
Joe married again a few years later. Two more children, a girl and boy, were added to the ever growing clan. Joe raised the kids with a heavy hand but it was the only way he knew how. They lived in one of the worst parts of the city. So bad that the kids would have to step over drug addicts sleeping on their front steps to enter their building.
Despite the daily temptations outside their doors, Joe’s kids grew into amazing adults. All seven of them went to college and on to enjoy productive careers. And ten grandchildren followed.
Two weeks ago we took Joe to the Emergency Room for the last time. He was 86. Joe knew it was his time, and he was okay with it. He would say that he wasn’t a smart man, and then we would remind him of how he had such great children and a big smile would come across his face. He would then look at some of his youngest grandchildren and time enabled him to say the words to them that he had always felt for all of his kids, “Grandpa loves you. Grandpa loves you.”
Can you imagine a 14 year old doing this in today’s world? Not only sacrificing his childhood, but being selfless enough to provide for two families. One of Joe’s daughters wrote a tribute to her Dad, “To Baba, whose favorite holiday was Thanksgiving, and his last wish was for his family to be together.” Once Joe was sure that all seven of his kids were together on Thanksgiving, he took his last breath. I will always carry the memory of a man who sacrificed everything to ensure his family would stay together.