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He Lived, I Learned

October 29, 2009

Cindy's dad, Henry J. Battles

Cindy's Father, The Hon. Henry J. Battles

This post was contributed by Cindy Battles, a freelance writer based in Rutland, VT who’s been diagnosed with and managing bipolar disorder for many years.


Generosity. Patience. Compassion. This was my father’s credo.

When I was hospitalized in the past, he took time out of his busy schedule to drive the hour and a half each way just to walk the hospital halls with me. Then there were those frantic, anxious calls in the middle of the night… he always answered, willing to keep me company on the line, gently suggesting ways to calm down and fall asleep. And when no one else would hire me, he gave me a job in his law office — he gave me a chance.

In the words of Clarence Budington Kelland, my father “didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

On the toughest days (we’ve all had them), while curled up on my parents’ couch and crying, my father’s credo would come in the form of a question: “Did you help someone today?” he’d ask. Such a simple thing to request, it seemed. All I had to do was get up and wash a few dishes or do the laundry. An achievement for the day; by helping others, I helped myself.

As recipient of my father’s kindnesses, I can proudly say that his credo has become mine. Bringing chicken soup to a sick friend, for example, can be more meaningful to their day than any of us might ever imagine.

But perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned to apply generosity, patience, and compassion to myself; to not only dream a different dream but to also acknowledge even the smallest successes. “This is how we get through the day,” my father would say. Step-by-step, one small dream achieved after another. All in a day’s work. And, a legacy I’ve found to be the fastest road back to working, laughing, and like my father, livin’ large.

So. Did you help someone today?



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