I remember countless events in which my parents taught me how to think.
When I was seven, we were living in Kharkov, Ukraine. One winter, the heater stopped. In some places, that’s an inconvenience.
At that time in Ukraine, where winter temperatures regularly dip below minus twenty degrees, it’s a dire situation. The challenge was that we couldn’t afford to fix the heater.
Though Dad and Mom worked hard to care for us three kids, we were living paycheck to paycheck.
It would be at least a week until my dad got paid and we had enough money to fix the heater.
Looking back, the situation could have been terribly stressful for us kids, let alone for our parents.
But they were resourceful people, and they both sought to bring joy into everyday life.
So instead of panicking, my mom got out our camping tent, and set it up in our tiny 1 bathroom 500 square ft apartment.
She threw in our sleeping bags and coats and blankets.
We kids, oblivious of the dire situation, just thought we were camping. We’d walk to school and ask the other kids, “Where did you sleep last night?” When they said in their bedrooms, we’d brag that we were camping out in our one and only room. My parents made a difficult situation fun. Turning adversity into a good time is one of life’s highest arts, and Mom and Dad were good at it.
Through all the challenges my parents faced raising us kids, they taught us to be self-reliant. That’s how they wanted us to think of ourselves: that no matter the situation, we could handle it and make the best of it.
I have a lot of memories of accompanying my mother to work. She was a midwife in Ukraine and she loved her job. She was a genuinely happy and kind. After getting married to our father at the age of 20, she worked the night shifts, all the while taking care of three kids.
She and dad had very little growing up, and very little as they worked hard to raise us.
I have great respect for my father, as you can imagine how it must have felt when he came to United Stated in his forties with only 300 dollars in his pocket without speaking the word of English and without his family?
I remember our dad, a very intelligent engineer who build programs for space shuttles at the age of 23, telling us how he had to start all over again: learn a new language, learn how to drive a car… among when he just survived a heart attack and alcohol addiction a couple of years prior.
Later on, he told me he was scared that he might never see us again. When I asked him, what was it like to be all alone in a new country, to learn a new language, to learn how to drive a car? He told me he stayed up learning English so he could keep his job and had to work at the restaurant because he was not making enough money to pay for his tiny 1 bathroom apartment in Michigan.
That’s when he knew that if an opportunity came to change our current circumstances, he was going to do it and give it his all.
I believe the reason why we are where we are today is because our parents didn’t give up. They fought through the storms, never lied or stolen, and most importantly were honest with each other.
My mother, too, is remarkable. She is the one who kept our family together. Whatever she had trouble at work, she understood that most people were good and caring; it was just that when they were in a hurry they could be oblivious, dismissive, or rude. She started her career at 16 years old and found herself in the middle of the board meeting with one of the doctors putting her under the bus and lying about something my mom didn’t do.
She always gave people the benefit of the doubt. To Mom, everyone was like a neighbor, and she wanted to help them.
That’s how mom taught me to think of other people: as neighbors whom I should always give the benefit of the doubt and be helpful toward.
And when hurry or disappointment soured their attitude, I should meet them with patience and humor.
There’s no doubt what drew my dad to my mom: She is the most joyous and sweet person you could meet.
Mom kept a good attitude and expected us kids to treat everyone with compassion—even the mean people. She would remind us that people were doing the best they could and often just needed our help. Many of my childhood memories of my mom involve her helping people. Other people, she said, needed our attention and generosity.
Watching and listening to my parents, I learned how to think of other people. Mom and Dad didn’t teach me that other people were mean or bad. Instead, they trusted in the goodness of others in general, and showed me that with patience, grace, and humor, people could open up, change, and be friendly. More than anything, my parents gave me the gift of how to think of the world in positive terms.
They showed me that life is what you make of it, and that it’s here to be enjoyed. I can’t imagine my life without these lessons….Happy 39 anniversary Mom and Dad. We love you!
Typically, those who positively influence people the most have something in common. They exert an effect on us, deliberately or not, by executing one or more of three influence actions.
First, they shape how we think. By their example, lessons they impart, or things they say to us, they open our eyes and make us think differently about ourselves, others, or the world.
Second, they challenge us in some way. They call us out on our stuff, or they raise our ambitions to be better in our personal life, relationships, and contributions to the world.
Third, they serve as role models. Their character, how they interact with us and others, or how they met the challenges of life inspires us.
Now think again of the three people who most positively influenced you. Can one or a combination of these influence actions explain their impact on you? If they taught you to be a better person, it probably happened because of a combination of all three, even if perhaps in subtle or unexpected ways.
“Any give moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Autonomous
Viktoriya and Oksana Gruzdyn are Nutritionists and Immunotherapy Researchers based in Detroit, MI. They specialize in helping people reverse autoimmune and other chronic illnesses by optimizing their immune function and cellular repair.