Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Remembering to Honor Family and Friends – “Cats in the Cradle”


When all is said and done who truly defines whether we have attained a level of success and personal honesty that was a true reflection of who we were? I believe the answer comes from those who are closest to us, our family and friends. I am not suggesting we base our lives solely on their assessment and feedback, but they know us in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, love and anger, success and failure. So why do we at times behave destructively towards those closest to us where we would otherwise rarely display such behaviors to others? Many times when the challenges of life confront us we go to those who love us for their comfort, understanding and validation. The conflict arises when their response to our needs are not manifested in the way we may want. I want us to reflect on this element of finding contentment in one’s life, because in the troubled times we face socially, economically, politically an ethically, it will be our family and friends that will be there to help us persevere together as a team and family.

After a recent “No Excuse!” presentation in Washington, DC, I was returning to BWI Airport via a cab. During the brief transport to the airport I conversed with the driver and asked him where he was from. His response humbled me and sparked some personal reflection on my part. He responded, “Nigeria”, and subsequently said, “I wake up every day thanking God for the blessing to come to this country, and thank Him for the opportunity and blessings to love my family, be with my family and witness their opportunity to prosper and succeed in a land of freedom.” I thought to myself, how many of my fellow American citizens have recently expressed such appreciation for their country and their family? I hope many have, for we should. Two songs which have always impacted me regarding this topic are Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”. The profound lyrics include, “He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time / You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu / But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad / It’s been sure nice talking to you” / And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me / He’d grown up just like me / My boy was just like me” and the key phrase in “Tears in Heaven” is “Would you know my name / If I saw you in heaven?” The lyrics encourage me to contemplate, one, have I created emotional distance with my own children, and two, would my children know my name in heaven?

My “No Excuse!” book is filled with inspiring quotes and anecdotes and my favorite is entitled “To My Grown Up Son” and affirms as follows, “My hands were busy through the day; I didn’t have much time to play the little games you asked me to; I didn’t have much time for you: I’d wash your clothes, I’d sew and cook, but when you’d bring your picture book and ask me to share your fun I’d say, “A little later, son.” I’d tuck you in all safe at night; and hear your prayers, turn out the light, then tiptoe softly to the door – I wish I’d stayed a minute more. For life is short, the years rush fast – a little boy grows up so fast. No longer is he at your side, his precious secrets to confide. The picture books are put away, there aren’t any games to play - no goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear; that all belongs to yesteryear. My hands once busy now lie still; the days are long and hard to fill. I wish I might go back and do the little things you asked me to.”

Over the 52 years of my life I have seen many people on different staircases to success, but if they have stepped on everyone along the way, how happy can they be? They may have things, but they do not have deep rooted meaningful relationships. Personal fulfillment in life is recognition of service to others, and living a life purposeful in respect to the family and friends you share life with. Each day is an opportunity to be kind, loving and respectful. Ensure there is time to share that kindness, love and respect with those who love you.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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