As Thanksgiving approaches, I think it is a good idea for all of us to ponder the question, “What is it that I am thankful for?” Growing up, and even as an adult, I always felt that Thanksgiving was about the American pilgrims and our country’s heritage. While indeed it is, there is still no reason to limit the holiday to exclude thinking about our own personal situation. Annually is none too frequent to do so, and this holiday lends itself to remembering to make that effort at least once each year.
I am most thankful for the values that my parents and other ancestors instilled in me. One learns from example, and indeed ‘talk is cheap’. So the values were not just expressed, but were illustrated in daily life. First of all came integrity and, from that, one can develop trust. Indeed, one can never trust a person lacking in integrity. The two virtues are interlocked.
With trust, one can show their vulnerabilities with less fear. With trust, one can admit what they don’t know, and thus learn to advance. Equally important, with trust one can speak their mind. As I get older, I sometimes worry that I may have previously told someone the story that I am about to tell to them, and don’t remember doing so. But, at least I know, as does any honest person, that even if he has heard it before, it will anyhow be the same story… because the truth never changes. I have even observed that most liars don’t have that good of memories, which is how they typically get caught. They don’t remember who they told what to.
There are certainly many things in my life that I am not proud of having done; but never did I try to cheat someone. Not a businessperson, nor a customer, much less a friend or relative. My family values are just too strongly imbedded in me, and for that I am so thankful. I have had others cheat me. I have been victimized and seriously harmed by a couple of people in my life who I stupidly trusted, never dreaming that their jealousy of my success or their greed would cause them to try to destroy my lifetime of achievement.
But even in those few incidences, the issue of trust rears its head. When I first learned the diamond business, I fell in love with an industry that was unlike any other in the world. Diamond dealers do everything on a handshake. No lawyers, no contracts, no courts. If you give a man your word, by shaking his hand, you must go through with your end of the deal. Failure to do so will result in your being thrown out of the industry, after being tried by your peers, for life. No second chance. So I learned that I could deal with trustworthy people. This hurt me, unfortunately, when I would encounter the handful of exceptions that sought to destroy me… my guard was not up. I was never exposed to those types, so I was vulnerable. But, in the end, I prevailed anyhow.
I am thankful for my good reputation. Being a public figure, it is hard to guard against pranksters, jealous or envious people, and others poking fun at you, or creating vicious lies to grab attention for themselves at your expense, or otherwise trying to harm you. But anyone who knows me ignores the nonsense. When I had a difficult time, it was my reputation that saved me. And my reputation, which I consider to be my most important asset, was earned over years of being honest and doing what is fair. And it was because of my parents and other relatives, who guided me properly from my childhood, for which I will be forever thankful that I wound up with the reputation I have.
Of course, the next chapter is about raising children. I take my role of being a father much more seriously than many of my friends do. I hate to make that statement, as it sounds (to me) like I am bragging. But there is nothing that I am more proud of than my kids. And I have tried to instill the same values of trust and integrity into them that were instilled into me. I have every confidence that I have been successful in this manner, and for that I am eternally thankful, as well.