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Something to Think About: Reflecting on My Father-In-Law’s Life

Op/Ed By Michael Vaughn


michael_vaughn2I would like to do a bit of reflection, in my column this week. I would like to reflect upon the life of a man I grew to know about 25 years ago. This man was my father-in-law, Louis V. Stokes. He passed away October 10, 2015, and he will truly be missed. As I have thought about his life, I’ve thought about a man who exemplified the attributes our society needs, and attributes African-American men need, specifically.

One of the most notable attributes he had was the fact that he was always trying to lend a hand. He never met a stranger, and always had a smile for those with whom he came into contact. His greatest desire had been to take what he had, and provide it to others. From the time he had been in the Navy, he’d had a desire to assist others. This is also something my wife exemplifies to this day. I believe she got that attribute from her dad.

She is always willing to lend a hand, and will speak to all whom she comes across.

In this very fast-paced society, and at a time when we all seem to be focused on ourselves, taking the time to help someone, or to smile at another person and say hello, is an attribute which would bring our humanity back into focus.

Maybe if we started to take more notice of people, we would notice when they have been hurt, or when they may need someone to encourage them. Having someone to help them may be the difference they have been looking for in their lives.

My father-in-law was not a complicated man, and, therefore, he did not live his life in a complicated way. What you saw was what you got. He was not two-faced, and he was always the same person whenever you saw him. He was also not someone who would try to impress you with his knowledge, nor with the people he knew. He kept it plain, simple, and honest, which was another refreshing attribute more people in our society could use.

Especially in one which has been so politically correct. If we could have integrity in our dealings with one another, I believe we would really be able to solve our problems. The fear of offending people, or having folks get mad at us when we have spoken the truth, has caused us to hold in what may be able to help some people, and possibly change their lives, decisions, and outcomes.

This “holding in” has caused many people to get hurt, and go down paths they may have been able to avoid if someone had only told them the truth, even if it meant they would have been offended.

My father-in-law was sensitive; he loved his family, and, most importantly, he loved Father God. He had a very sensitive heart, and had been moved to tears a number of times, at various points over the years.

Why was his sensitivity so important? It was important because it showed two things; one, he was someone who cared about what moved him, and, two, it showed he was not afraid to show his vulnerability for the world to see.

When people show sensitivity in this manner, it has the ability to move folks to action. And, solutions have been created, and executed, when people have been moved to action. Sometimes, when someone shows vulnerability for the world to see, it can enable those with similar feelings to have the confidence to also express their true feelings. I believe this would help people move out of depression, if it happened more often, because they would be able to more easily release how they really feel.

My father-in-law was not world-renowned, and he didn’t make any significant discoveries. He was simply a man who loved God, loved his family, and went about doing the things he thought were good and helpful for others.

He never met a stranger, was nice to everyone he met, and always extended a helping hand. He did these things, while not dotting every “i” or crossing every “t.” He did them as he lived his life. And, he was an example of someone who made his impact on the world count. He’s left a legacy which will go on, and build, from his example. One which will continue to have lasting impact for generations to come!

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