3 things that my dad taught me, that changed my life

I want to share a few short things with you that my dad has taught me.. he’s taught myself and so many other people many things.. but I want to share 3 important things that I’ve learned from him. This is the message that I said at my dads life celebration memorial service this past week.

My dad, the legend Barry Graham Strydom (as I like to call him), has always walked the walk, and he’s led by example. So these are things that I’ve learned from him watching him live his life.

Number 1

The first thing I’ve learned from my dad is how to love people and bring kindness to everyone wherever he goes. This may sound typical, but my dad’s way of doing things has never been typical..

My dad is the guy that runs outside with food and drinks to take the refuse workers every single Tuesday morning when they come to collect the garbage – not only that, but he also takes the time to pray with them and ask them about their families. He’s done this every Tuesday morning for years – for as long as I can remember. I know that these acts of genuine love and kindness have shown so many people God’s love.

My dad is the guy that takes time to talk to shop cashiers at the grocery store, and petrol attendants at the petrol/gas station – he asks them about their day, he jokes around and tries to make them laugh, if they say they’re having a bad day/or they’re struggling through something he asks if he can pray for them.

I have seen my dad show this kind of love to people wherever he goes – I’ve even seen him stop to have these conversations with car guards and street sweepers multiple times.

He finds random people to talk to, everywhere he goes.. sometimes I’m just like “I don’t know how he finds these people!”. But when my dad talks to people it leaves them feeling important, valued, loved, accepted, honoured and respected. And it shows them that somebody actually cares about them. He does this by bringing them genuine kindness and love.

And this is just his encounters with random strangers that he doesn’t even know. My dad has always gone WAY out of his way to help people in my family, and his friends, and people in the church. And he never expects anything in return.

My dad worked at EH Walton packaging as their sales director for many years. And It wasn’t just a job for him – it was also part of his ministry. He spent so much time in the factory with the factory workers getting to know them, asking about their families and praying for them when they needed it. I know he changed many of the factory workers lives.. and made them feel important, respected and cared for. He was very popular with the factory workers, and when he took me on a tour of the factory I could not believe how the people there respected and loved him.

My dad has found a way to make every part of his life his ministry. My dad has used every possible opportunity to show love to people, and in turn show the love of God to people.

I’ve never met someone that loves God as much as my dad does – behind the scenes when no one is looking, there’s my dad in his study worshipping God and praying to God.. there’s my dad studying the bible, and there’s my dad spending time in the garden talking to God. I’ve never met anyone who has devoted so much time to God – when people are around, and even when they are not.

I really believe that all this time he has spent with God has allowed his heart to be open to sharing so much love and kindness wherever he goes.

He has shown myself and my sister Rozanne, and so many other people how to be an exceptional person that loves God and people with all his heart. I only hope that we can live up to this very high standard of love that my dad has left for us to follow. We will try!

Here is what I have learned from my dad: This is what life is about.. it’s about showing people genuine love.. which shows God’s love to them through us. Life is about giving love, and also being open to receiving love.

Number 2

The second thing I’ve learned from my dad is something that he has personally been trying to help me with..

I’ve been struggling with stress and anxiety these past few years.. my dad always says to me “Ah love, you’re too blessed to be stressed”. That’s been one of my dad’s favourite sayings for the past few years.. He always says to me “Just laugh it off sweety, it’s not worth the stress”.

Last year, I was really struggling with my anxiety.. and I asked my dad “How do I manage my stress? I just don’t know how to manage my stress!”. He told me that he’d think about it, and came back to me a few hours later and said…

“When it’s a life or death situation, you stress about it … when it’s not a life or death situation you don’t stress about it. That’s how you know whether you need to stress about it or not”.. He said “Otherwise just laugh it off.. it’s just not worth the stress”.

In these past 7 weeks when my dad was so sick, and it literally was a life or death situation.. I finally understood what he had been trying to say to me.. I finally got it. That type of stress suddenly made every other thing that I’d ever been stressed about seem so silly – and so irrelevant. I finally learned what he had been trying to teach me these past few years.

“If it’s not a life or death situation.. it’s not worth the stress. Just laugh it off!” My dad always said.. and every time he said that to me, he’d give this little knowing chuckle afterward!

So let me tell you: You’re too blessed to be stressed. Count your blessings, not your stresses. It’s just not worth it to do it the other way around.

Number 3

 The 3rd thing my dad has taught me is that..

It’s not about where you come from, it’s about who you choose to become.

My dad went through many traumas as a young child, a teenager and a young adult that I know haunted him for the rest of his earthly life. But he never ever let them hold him back. Even though my dad has had the craziest most wild life, he’s never let anything steal his joy.. and he’s never let anything steal his sweet childlike mischievous spirit.

He also made the choice to take that pain that he had as a child from his earthly father, and turn it into something beautiful. He has literally been THE BEST father to Rozanne and myself.. that any little girl could ever dream of. He’s been a better dad than what I could ever have dreamed of. I’ve always felt so lucky and so blessed to have such an incredible father.. and I’ve never taken it for granted because I’ve always known what he went through as a young boy.

My dad also chose to take that beyond just his home with my sister and I.. and has chosen to be an incredible father to so many children, teenagers and young adults that never had good examples of earthly fathers. I know many people that my dad considers his children. He’s been a father to many people by showing love, showing that he cares, being there for them when they needed him, offering them wisdom and advice when they needed it.. and by praying for them day in and day out – that they would be shown God’s fatherly love.

This is what I’ve learned from my dad Barry: We all go through bad things in life, some of us get dealt “bad” cards at times.. Sometimes we go through seasons that are really hard, and then we go through times that are really great. This is just how life works. We don’t have control over what happens to us in life, the only thing that we have control over is how we react to these situations.

My dad chose to react to those incredibly difficult, painful moments that he went through as a young boy in a positive way. He chose to turn something terrible into something beautiful. He chose to become a loving father to me, my sister and so many other people that he considers his children.. even though he never had that for himself.

My dad has taught me that we have a choice in life: To become bitter and twisted when we get dealt with bad situations in life.. or to just “Forgive, let it go, and laugh it off” as my dad has always said. Turn that pain into something beautiful.. you can do this by sharing love to people, showing kindness, and having compassion for others in life .. because you’ve been through it too, and so you can relate to them.

My dad always says “Just delete the bad, and keep the good. It’s not worth holding onto the bad. Just keep the good”.

I hope that by sharing these stories with you, I can inspire all of you to go out and share love and kindness with everyone that comes into your path. As my dad learned in life, it’s not about how you begin your life or about where you come from.. showing love and kindness doesn’t cost anything, and anyone can do it. These small moments can have much more impact on someone than you could possibly ever know.

Let’s live life just like my dad Barry has always done: To bring love to this world.

Liezl XO

Written by Liezl Jayne Strydom, photos from my own personal collection