Unidentified Man #1: I believe in mystery.
Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in family.
Unidentified Man #2: I believe in being who I am.
Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the power of failure.
Unidentified Man #4: And I believe in normal life is extraordinary.
Unidentified Man #5: This I believe.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Today's essay for our series This I Believe comes from attorney and writer Yolanda Young of Washington, D.C. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: Many of the essays we receive describe beliefs based on lessons learned from parents. Yolanda Young wrote about a belief acquired through her relationship to her father. But she learned it the hard way.
Here is Yolanda Young with her essay for This I Believe.
Ms. YOLANDA YOUNG (Attorney, Writer): Recently, I e-mailed my father. I wrote: It was good to hear from you. I'm glad you're well. Take care. I last heard from him when he e-mailed my Web page wishing me a happy belated birthday. He wrote in February. My birthday was in October.
Forgetting my birthday is the least of my father's failings. I was five when my parents divorced. He moved across the country and I rarely saw or heard from him. When I was 17, I watched him beat a woman in the street. His violence wasn't a revelation. I'd already witnessed him shoot my mother.
Here's where you gasp, look upon me with pitying eyes and assume that I must hate my father. I don't. His last act of violence against my mother was in some ways a lucky break. My mother went right on living, and through her, I came to believe in the power of forgiveness.
She never complained about his not paying child support. On the rare occasions that he called or visited, the woman insisted that I'd be respectful. Momma always made the distinction: My father hurt her, not me. Sure there were moments when he pissed me off, when he blamed my mother for the shooting or berated me for asking for money while I was in college. Five years later, he was offended when I didn't invite him to my law school graduation. Despite all this, he is still my father. When he is sick, I call and check on him. When he dies, if there is no money, a likelihood, I will bury him.
While I'm not fond of my father, I may be the only family member who does not despise him. I believe this is because I never loved him. When I was a child, I was open to it, but he wasn't around and hard to love when he was. But I didn't miss not having a father. Thanks to the daily presence of my grandfather and uncles. They taught me to play basketball and spades, and arranged modest vacations to Six Flags and the Bayou Classic.
Some say having my father do these things would have been better, in much the same way that not growing up poor would have been better. But I believe what has made the difference is that I grew up happy and loved.
There are ways in which I'm very much my father's daughter. My height, eyes and premature graying are thanks to him. I have his stubborn streak and, on rare occasions, his temper; but I also possess his ambition and ingenuity.
A few years after law school when I declined to handle a legal matter for him, he told me that he was cutting me off. If that's what you want, I replied, understanding my father's emotional struggles, but not becoming hostage to them. Now, he is appealing to me for a relationship. I'm still open to it. Throughout my life, my father has asked me for many things, but never forgiveness.
I believe in forgiveness. I give it freely and in doing so, free myself.
ALLISON: Yolanda Young with her essay for This I Believe. Young reports that her father recently sent her a book because he knows she's a writer. She says he's trying and that's all she can ask.
At npr.org/thisibelieve, you can find out how to submit your own essay to our series and read through the more than 30,000 that had been sent in to date. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
SIEGEL: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman of the book "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women."
Next Sunday on Weekend Edition, a This I Believe essay from listener Tumar Duke Cohen(ph) on her belief in argument and debate.
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