My father, Vernon, introduced me to faith in Jesus Christ at a very early age. It led to a personal relationship with Christ in 1974 in the quietness of the Chapel of the Transfiguration at St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, in Sri Lanka, especially after I listened to the riveting messages of the Chaplain, Reverend Duleep Chickeira who told us that Christianity was not a religion but a relationship with Jesus Christ. Every morning before we left for school, we would sit in the front room as a family, in Maha Nuge Gardens in Colombo, (the capital of Sri Lanka) on a mat, studying the word of God from the Bible and praying together as a family. These were very special moments.
Throughout his life my father taught me powerful lessons, to keep me grounded. I would like to share these life lessons with you – 7 key tips my father taught me:
- All you need is love.
The greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians, Chapter 13).He gave us so much love, he used to hug us, kiss us, cuddle us as children. He was a very loving human being. I will always remember the time I telephoned him to say I was travelling to New Malden in Surrey to meet him. Despite being feeble, Dad had walked up the road to meet me, much to my surprise, he was waiting for me, standing by some bollards – when he saw me, his eyes lit up and he gave me a massive hug. At that moment, I felt the unconditional love of my earthly father, just like the love that comes from my Heavenly Father. When I was working in Central London, I would walk to my desk and listened to my voice messages on the telephone. There it was, a message from my Father, telling me how much he loved and blessing my day. I so appreciated that message of love from him, it really lifted me up at the start of the day.
- People are more important than things
You can’t take your money, your house, your car, your high-powered job, your possessions to the grave. My father taught me that while I was on this earth, to look after the needs of others and go that extra mile. He told me not to bother about things but to be a people centered person. They are far more important than our possessions on earth he said.
- Be Compassionate
My father said I should always be compassionate, empathizing, feeling for others and help those who were suffering. Neville Jayawaeera, the former Director-General of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation writing about Dad said: ‘His sense of loyalty to his management and to his profession and his compassion and concern for those who worked under him were exemplary. I recall many instances when he would intercede on behalf of some hapless subordinate who had fallen foul of the management without even flinching from his loyalty to the latter.’
- Honesty is the best policy
My father was recalling a time when we lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka when a man came to him and presented him with an envelope. He asked the man what is this? When he opened the envelope, there was a wad of bank notes –this was clearly a bribe as the man wanted him to do a ‘favor.’ Dad tore the envelope up and requested him to leave. He could not be bought. Subsequently a ‘charm’ was buried near the front entrance of the house – the intention was for something terrible to happen to us, purely because my father refused to accept the bribe. My father said: ‘No weapon formed against us will prosper.’ It didn’t.
- Be a risk taker
Dad taught me that to achieve success in life, I might have to take risks. We all face small, medium, large risks, sometimes daily. Dad used to tell me: ‘go for it,’ having assessed the risk. The biggest risk my father took was when he left the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and a good job – he was Director News at the station, leaving all our possessions behind and travelling to England to join Radio Worldwide, the radio arm of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. This mission was founded by the all-England cricketer, C.T. Studd who was one of the ‘Cambridge Seven,’ and went to China to serve under one of God’s Generals, Hudson Taylor. It was a wonderful time, living by faith.
- Don’t worry be happy
Dad always quoted his favorite scripture: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice.’ (Philippians Chapter 4 verse 4) He was a man who had a joyful countenance. He spread a little happiness and kindness into people’s lives, through the eyes of compassion.
- Laughter is the Best Medicine
Researchers at the University of Maryland in the United States linked laughter to the healthy function of blood vessels – something that can lower your chance of a heart attack. Laughter also boosts heart rate and the production of certain antibodies, which strengthens our immune system. So, laughter is good for you and my father made people laugh. He was a joker and together with his brother Ernest, they were famous for cracking jokes, everywhere. Stuart Wavell, a BBC consultant who worked with the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation in the 1970s included a photograph of my father in his training manual for the CBC, ‘The Art of Radio.’ The picture shows Dad leading a ‘brainstorming session,’ in the boardroom of the radio station. There was a huge smile on his face – I could tell he was cracking a joke and the entire SLBC boardroom were in fits of laughter!
My father was very much a compassionate leader working at Radio Ceylon.