A few days ago, I sent out a note to the Milford High Class of 1979 about the PMC and Phil’s Phriends’ ride. Phil was the President of that class. A few hours later, I received a note from Joanne, a classmate and friend of Phil which I must share:

Hi Jeff:

I ‘m forwarding to you a speech my daughter wrote and gave at last year’s National Honor Society Banquet . She was asked to speak on “Character” . As I read your email this morning and remembered Phil , my mind wandered to how much I have to be thankful for, I have been blessed. Thank you for remembering Phil in this way and give my best to all his Phriends through your travels.

Joanne Featherstone

We are all dealt a different hand of cards. We are given some high cards, and some low, some good, and others bad, but it is how we use the cards we are given that decide whether we will win or lose. Life, like a game of cards, is often unexpected and how we react to these unforeseen occurrences often defines our character.

My family was dealt a bad card about eight months ago when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. While this event brought about an unforeseeable amount of emotional pain and struggle, it also taught me a lot about a person’s character. My dad is one of the strongest people I know, and in the last few months I have seen his true character. He is brave, loving, and he is also human. The latter fact did not hit me until the day my parent’s told me about my dad’s cancer. I was scared, upset, and most of all confused. All my life my dad was my superhero; he was supposed to be invincible, but even my dad couldn’t escape this horrific disease.

On February 8, 2008 my parents told my brother and me that my dad had cancer; and that day he proved he was still the superhero we thought he was when we were kids. That day revealed my dad’s character, his strength, and his love for my family and me. Character is often defined by a person’s words, but it is a person’s actions that truly exemplify their personality. My dad sought help when he knew he was no longer in control of his own body; he sought out doctors, family, and friends to help him understand his cancer, and my dad remained optimistic throughout the days leading up to his surgery. The actions of my father taught me about his character, but it was the actions of the people closest to me, and the people closest to my family that taught me even more.

As John Lennon said “I get by with a little help from my friends” Last year, my friends became my rock, and it became clear to me that the true character of an individual, better yet a true friend, is revealed when life deals you an unexpected card. The way my friends reacted to my bad card, displayed their personality, their true strength, and their true kindness. You can never understand the generosity of another human being until you truly need a friend by your side. My friends reacted to my dad’s cancer by being there for me, allowing me to be selfish, and by texting me non-stop as I waited for my dad to come out of surgery.

Character is defined as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. Those features and traits that we all possess are defined by the way we react to the cards we are dealt. A really bad card that turned into an incredible hand initiated my appreciation of a character. I learned about the character of my family, my friends, and myself through this horrific ordeal. We all need to learn how to react to the hands we are given, and turn them a positive aspect of our personality. Our inner qualities are revealed through an infinite number of factors, but remember that you always have the power to define yourself. This anonymous quote speaks true to my idea of character; “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Reading that reminded me why we ride! It’s off to Sturbridge in a few hours, Godspeed.

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