Even the most non-religious amongst us recognizes “Honor Thy Mother and Father” as one of the Ten Commandments. This ain’t just any commandment though, many pious Jews argue that it’s the most important of them all. More than a mere commandment, they see it as a “mitzvah,” a good deed, something recognized as a precious, golden moment between children and their parents.
While I’m no Talmudic scholar, I have often pondered whether the opposite is true; in other words, whether parents’ honoring their sons and daughters is equally as highly regarded and important.
That is a debate I will leave to others better educated and more righteous then yours truly.
However, one that I will open is the culmination of this week’s learning, namely:
One of the finest
“good deeds” you can do is
honor the children of others.
This is something I learned first-hand at Just For Laughs in 1995. Given the 24/7 nature of running the Festival back then, I spent the last two weeks of July sequestered at the event’s host hotel, where my wife would often bring my two young children to visit in an effort to prove that yes, they still had a daddy.
That year, there was a successful animated cartoon producer who came to the event. He was somewhat slimy, but not off the charts as per Hollywood standards. He often noticed me traipsing about the hotel with my sons, and one day, stopped us. He asked my boys their names, asked if they knew his show (which they did), and then brought out a huge bag stuffed with videocassettes, t-shirts and other merchandise from said show for them. My kids went crazy, and we all thanked the man profusely.
Cut to a few years later.
The producer’s show was long off the air, and he hadn’t had anything even resembling a hit since. That, combined with his somewhat prickly personality, rendered him essentially worthless and invisible at the event when he made a reappearance. Those who didn’t give him the time of day simply ignored him completely.
Except for me.
I treated him with respect and warmth. Not because I liked him much; because I remembered what he had done for my kids. That was more important than anything. Yes, perhaps there was a little “brown-nosing” in his initial outreach, but no matter what, back then he had done something while most did nothing.
That’s the true secret of getting into someone’s good books—do right by their offspring. There are few things more appreciated, or rewarding.
You may forget
who’s done right by you,
but you’ll never forget
who’s done right by your kids.
Just this past week, I was asked to speak at Dawson College in the middle of an incredibly busy period. There was no “win” in it for me, but since the subject was entrepreneurship, I said I would do it only if I could do so alongside my 23-year-old son Hayes, who had recently opened up his own custom furniture design business. Much to my delight, they said yes, and even more delightful was the way the organizers—and the crowd—treated my son. (That's us up above.) They now have a license to ask me for just about anything.
Later that day, I went to an art exhibition, where I told Corinne Asseraf, the gallery owner the Dawson story. She asked about Hayes’ work, and I showed her. She was so impressed that she offered to display some of it in her galleries (she has three!) and introduce him to some of her more avant-garde clients.
Which is why, needless to say, I left that exhibition glowing.
And which is why, the next day when one of my hockey coaches from the summer asked if I could get his son an internship position with us at Just For Laughs, I just had to return the “pay it forward” karmic favor.
And which is why I donate to a charity set up by one of my old high school friend’s son, and why I just sponsored a colleague’s daughter in a Christmas fundraiser.
Let’s face it, sometimes these offspring offers have an ulterior motive, but in the end, who really cares? By honoring our kids, their mothers and fathers are being honored in the process.
Perhaps that should be the 11th Commandment.