What My Father Taught Me

Posted on 06.20.2012

Father’s Day has come and gone. I did not visit my late father’s gravesite, as that practice has never been part of my way of remembering him. He died when I was fourteen. I am just grateful that I was close to him from early in my childhood. He spoke volumes into my life before the Lord took him home.

My father, John Calvin O’Neil, was a pastor, preacher/teacher, loving husband, devoted father and community barber with a charismatic personality. I want to share a few things he taught me. His talk was not cheap, for, he lived what he taught:

Do what you can, while you can.”  I added, “where you are with what you have.”

He always said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”  We knew that was not in the Bible, but we went along with it. He taught us how to clean. To this day, I have a reputation in my extended family for knowing how to clean a house! He basically felt that it was just “not right” to live in filth.

My father did not have a lot of clothes, but he taught me that it is better to buy an item of quality that would last and look good longer than to buy a poor quality item. He said it was important to take care of the items with which you have been blessed.

He taught me to tithe from a very early age! I just remember tithing on a single dollar and being blessed with more later! He was very big on the concept of tithing.

He always said that it was “better to give than to receive.” Of course, being a man after God’s own heart, he lived surrendering to this important tenet of Jesus Christ.

He always said that I needed to know what “the world” was like, so that I would know the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the Kingdom of God. During the era I was growing up, that was a pretty progressive stance, especially for a preacher.

He taught me to love people. I used to watch him as he conversed, debated and laughed with his clients in the barbershop! He enjoyed being in the marketplace, loving and challenging people with the Truth. As I would sweep up the bits of freshly cut hair on the floor, I listened to him as he met people where they were, without judging them—just loving them.

He told me, “always stay close to God, because He will always lead you.” Those words have proven to be true, all of my life.

My dad taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to. He kind of tricked me into that mindset by first having me (my sisters also) type his sermons for him. I was only nine or ten at the time! He always seemed confident that I could do things, so I thought I could. He was the one that convinced me that I could become a doctor since that was my “bent.” I guess he was right about that!

My dad taught me, but he also taught all ten of his children many, many things. One of the most important was how to love a spouse. He and my mom were in love, still, after ten children and a lot of sacrifice.

Thank you, Daddy. You are still with me, teaching me every single day!