By Jonathan Wright
My father, Emmette L. Wright, was born exactly 90 years ago today, on January 11, 1924. He died at the age of 49 in 1973, so I’ve not been privileged with having him around during most of my adult years. I was only 20 when he died.
Despite that, there’s no denying that my dad has continued exerting a profound influence on my life even now, here in 2014.
Throughout these decades of my adult life, I’ve found countless ways his influence has affected my decisions and the important values I’ve passed on to my own children as well. It’s become nothing less than second nature to me.
My dad was a practical man and was not one to purchase something that had little practical value. If it weren’t something he would use regularly, he simply wouldn’t purchase it.
His advice still rings in my ears today, and I’ve repeated it without hesitation to my own children more times than I can count when an item seemed too good a bargain to pass up: “It’s not a bargain at any price—if you don’t need it.”
My dad also encouraged me to make positive, productive decisions for my own good even when those decisions ran counter to my own likes. Despite my protests (I was pretty shy around strangers at that time), he forced me to take over my brother’s hospital newspaper route at King’s Daughters Hospital in Ashland, Ky., when my brother went off to Greenbrier Military School in 1967.
After begrudgingly beginning work, I soon discovered what a wise decision that was. Within no time I fell right into the job and genuinely began loving my daily interaction with patients and staff at the large hospital. And on top of it all, I began earning some serious money, a great benefit of the first real job of my young life.
My father was also protective, concerned about any possible harmful influences on me and my brother and sister. One instance that stands out starkly in my mind was a period when he brought home a color television set for us to try out a few days. It was the first color set we had had the opportunity to enjoy, and we kids began watching it intently.
This did not go unnoticed on our dad, and he soon made the decision to return the television set to the dealer, explaining to us that he was concerned that we might just start watching anything, even harmful material, just because it was in color.
I’ve never forgotten that.
First and foremost among the powerful influences of my dad was his commitment to Jesus Christ. He was committed to Him unashamedly, and although he was out of town most weekdays for his work, he was almost always home on the weekends—and without fail, like clockwork, he and my mom would take us to Sunday School and morning worship service, then Sunday evening service, at our church in Ashland. My mom would take us on Wednesday evenings as well. Church was a non-negotiable, and it has stuck with me my entire life. There’s no way to put a price on that.
These values I have passed on to my own children. They don’t know anything different. I wouldn’t want them to.
So today, the 90th anniversary of my father’s birth, I continue feeling enormous gratitude for the attitudes and habits both he and my mother instilled in me. They’ve made nothing less than an eternal difference in my life—and in turn those of my own children.