Footprints. Who were the people in whose footprints you stepped over the course of your life? Whose footprints led you to where, what and who you are today?
I am constantly influenced by the many people in both my professional and personal life. In this first segment of a three part series, I challenge you: Who in your life helped established your path?
The first footprints were of my parents, “Mama Alice” and “Michael A.” That’s what my 10 brother and sisters called them. They not only gave us life but helped shape our lives.
“Mama Alice” was my shero. As her third child, it seemed to me like she was pregnant most of her life. She lost three children before her first successful pregnancy with my sister Mary. And then she had 11 in a row, ending with my kid brother Andy, a Columbia, SC attorney. As my father said later… “When we found out what was causing it, we put a stop to it!”
We are blessed. All my siblings are still alive. “Mama Alice” was our moral compass. She taught us right from wrong and literally served as both parents because my dad held two jobs to feed a family of 13, establishing the very first footprints of my life.
“Michael A. was not just my hero but a real life hero.” He was a multiple Purple Heart Winner in World War II and a recipient of the prestigious Silver Star.
In the eight and one half decades of his life, he rarely spoke of those experiences. He was wounded four times, taking one in his head and another in his “buttocks,” as Forest Gump would say. We used to kid him about that one being friendly fire.
The head wound miraculously entered his helmet, traversed under the skin of his forehead and exited out of the back of his skull. You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw the helmet. As my Uncle George Renard (who also served), would say: “You have to have the paperwork!” My dad had the helmet.
I admired his work ethic and conviction. He was an artist by talent but a cabinet builder, restaurateur and contractor by trade. Some of his artwork still hangs in the South Carolina State Museum of Art. His footsteps were clear, directional and inspiring.
Another set of footprints were established by my two grandfathers, Elias Mack, Sr. and George Aun, both of who arrived in this country with no education or money and only a dream of freedom from their native Beirut, Lebanon.
My maternal grandfather Eli Mack, Sr. ran out of money in Columbia, SC on his trek from Ellis Island in New York to Miami in search of his fortunes. With no education or money, he became a merchant and entrepreneur, as no one would hire him. Imagine the courage that it took?
I see his footprints constantly. He gave me my very first journal, a blank book that he told me to fill with dreams, which I did. I literally have accomplished or scratched off as being “not accomplishable” most of the 500 goals I had on my list.
I’ll never be a Priest or Governor, but I wouldn’t have put them on the list were it were not the dreams inspired by my grandfather and his son, Elias S. Mack, Jr., both of whom served as Mayor of Lexington, SC exactly 40 years apart.
I became an author, writer and speaker because of those journals. I ran for the House of Representatives because my grandfather and his son Eli Jr. became Mayor of Lexington, SC, where I grew up and spent the first 40 years of my life.
They both inspired me to search for my dreams and pursue them. They taught me not to fear defeat. Most importantly, I learned that failure was the process by which we succeed. So many great footprints to follow.
Next week, I’ll share with you some of the footprints I’ve followed from those who were my mentors and not my family. Mentors are all around you. They tell you what you’re doing right… but more importantly they love you enough to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to correct the course.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.