1917 (left to right) Great-Uncle Dan (b. 1907 – d. 2000), Grandpa Camacho (b. 1893 – d. 1985) and Grandma Camacho (b.1901 – d. 1985)
My mother, Judith, me and my father, August after my graduation ceremony at Pepperdine University, December 11, 1992
We are born, we grow, we live and learn; but how often do we look at our lives and consider how those experiences frame our outlook on life, our life philosophies, the things we value, the principles we live by and how we prioritize those elements? It wasn’t until I graduated from college at 25 that I really considered the role my past experiences, good and bad, played in creating my perspective of the world and the people around me. Being from a working-class family and graduating from Pepperdine University as well as working briefly in the movie industry, I was forced to look at my life through new eyes. The immense amount of love and gratitude I felt for my family and the friends I grew up with in my neighborhood could not be adequately put into words. I wrote a card to my father because I missed Father’s Day that I feel sums up the emotions I was going through at that time.
Image of the card I gave my dad in 1992 shortly after Father’s Day
My father had that card placed on his dresser until I had to move him into memory care in September of 2015. I framed it and hung it on his wall in his room. Putting him in memory care was the hardest thing I ever did, and I felt it was important to let the people caring for him know who he is to me and how important a person his is.
How extraordinary and unique are the people who played an integral role in the creation of my character and how blessed am I to have or have had them in my life. The most important and valuable things I have in this world have no value to anyone but me: a pocket dictionary my Uncle Dan used to carry in his inside breast pocket, the doilies Grandma crocheted, my dad’s change dish and a number of family photos. I touch them and memories flood my mind, not psychically, just pleasant childhood memories. The truth of the matter is, these things can be lost or destroyed at anytime, and I know that. I am comforted by the knowledge that the greatest gifts this life has to offer I carry with me: unconditional love, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, friendship, reliability, confidence, compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance, acceptance, information, curiosity, sense of humor, humility and so many other beautiful traits. I have the many people who have touched my life to thank for the experiences that have led me to this place where I can love and live fully and do no harm.
There are so many things that drive us in life, education, money, cars, etc. We are taught that we are successful when we achieve financial independence and wealth, when we own a home, when we obtain the job or career we dreamed of having, when we get married or start a family. Many of these achievements are commendable, but they do not predict happiness or success. Have you ever considered the wherewithal it takes for a drug addict or alcoholic to get clean and sober and stay clean and sober? Once they have achieved sobriety they are still judged by their former flaws and carry the badge of alcoholic or drug addict for the rest of their lives. Why does this happen? They have fixed the problem. Why can’t they just get on with their lives? Why must we, as a society or community, create a hierarchy of accomplishment, wealth and/or education? Why must we feel like we are better than the other guy?
By the grace of God, I was raised in the perfect family. My family accepts all people for who they are as members of the human race. They don’t like or value their Catholic friends more than their Jewish friends, their white friends more than their black friends, their wealthier friends more than their poorer friends. They accept the people in their lives for who they are in their heart and soul. My parents were not just friends with good people or religious people or people who lived in our neighborhood, they welcomed all people, first because my mother was very social, but they also enjoyed helping others, being reliable, honest and sincere and living by example. They always practiced what they preached. I witnessed this behavior throughout my life, and it’s one of the things I am most grateful for. They were wonderful role models. My family established the foundation of my philosophies of life. I touched on one of these philosophies previously: do no harm.
Do no harm; I do my best to make sure my actions, words or intentions are not harmful to others. Although I am not perfect, I do my best, and when I feel I have committed a transgression, I apologize, when possible. Mean or hurtful words or actions cannot be taken back, just like you cannot unring a bell. Once it’s out, you put that energy out there. You can apologize, but that is all you can do. The person you hurt has the option to accept or deny your apology, and there is nothing you can do about that. A person can accept your apology and never speak to you again, that is their right. I’ve heard friends or family say, “But I apologized. Why won’t they call me back, or come over or go out with me?” When trust is broken so are many relationships, relationships of all kinds. This brokenness is just a reality we need to accept. I do not have to ever talk to you again and chances are, if you hurt me or betrayed my trust, I never will. Being the realist that I am, even though I may not choose to continue a relationship, I do acknowledge the fact that I may see this person again in any number of situations. Although this person has hurt me, I really have no right to hurt them. Inflicting pain on someone who has hurt me just creates negative Karma. I feel it is best to be polite and respectful should they address me and/or I just steer clear. There is no reason for confrontation. This strategy is also true of people that rub me the wrong way. There are 7 billion people on this planet; I’m not going to like all of them, and not all of them are going to like me. That’s just a statistical fact. I’m good with this fact but I have no right to be mean or disrespectful to someone because of my own personal issues with who I perceive them to be. I’m polite and respectful when addressed and/or I steer clear. It’s very simple in my mind. We don’t all have to get along or love each other, but we do need to respect one another and allow people to be who they are without ridicule or judgement. You don’t have to bring these people into your life, but you have to allow them the right to live their lives the way they see fit. Your way is not the right way nor is mine. We are all unique and beautiful, and we all have our own paths to walk. Be respectful of that.
Respect is offered uniformly. Whether you are indigent, or president of the United States, you get treated with the same respect by me. As I get to know people, that respect can increase or decrease based on their actions, but not on their race, or religion or station in life. I choose to bring people into my life who are kind, respectful and tolerant to their fellow man. When I see someone being what I would consider to be mean, cruel, belittling, vindictive or any number of other things, I will lose respect for that person. The pain I feel in my heart when I see this type of behavior cannot be ignored, and is best removed. Their actions still do not give me the right to treat them as if they are beneath me, but this would be someone I would not care to bring into my life among my family or children. When I see someone treat another with kindness, understanding, compassion and/or empathy, I feel such joy that my estimation of who I perceive that person to be can only increase in my eyes. I would want to know more about such a person. It is very simple in my mind. I am not better or less than anyone; I live in the same world as you and, I am vulnerable to its ebb and flow just like everyone else.
I had a friend who told me his wife had never lead anyone anywhere, and he said this as an insult. I’ve known this person for 36 years. My response to this statement was, “I have never lead anyone anywhere nor have I followed anyone anywhere. I have always chosen to do my own thing, my way, but if you’d like, you are more than welcome to walk beside me.”
The Camacho’s: (Standing: left to right) Lucy, Barney, Aunty Rose, Dad, Aunty Marlene, Uncle Larry, Uncle Ben, Aunty Helen, Aunty Blase, Uncle Al, Aunty Chris, Michelle, (sitting) Uncle Dan, Grandpa, Grandma, Diane (baby), Uncle Bernard, (sitting on the floor) Bernie, Kerrie Ann, Patty, Denise, and Millie.