It’s been a tough year for my family and me, but a year that makes me recall deeds that demonstrated compassion, dedication and perseverance — character traits that make any society work.

In March, we received the news that my 62-year-old father had passed away. I remember the good times of going to Cedar Point with him as a child and wondering why he fell asleep while watching one of the live shows. Dad worked a lot of overtime to provide for us, which kept him from sleeping a lot. A live children’s show at Cedar Point was the perfect opportunity for him to catch up on his rest. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to appreciate the many sacrifices he made.

My dad coached Little League baseball in the summertime. Many families are now lifelong friends of my own family because we built connections with each other through the teams he managed and taught. I remember seeing dad working on the hitting lineup and assigning defensive positions in his playbook during his downtime at home. It was quite a time commitment, but he never complained and genuinely enjoyed the time spent with his baseball community.

He would wrestle with my brothers and me. We turned our parents’ bed into a professional wrestling ring. We had some pretty epic matches.

I remember him helping me get up the sledding hill when I was too tired to make the trek on my own. He attended my school plays and sports functions, not because they were high-quality entertainment, but because it was what fathers did to encourage their children.

Less than a month after my father’s passing, my maternal grandmother passed away at the age of 89. She was the kindest soul I ever knew. When I hear the word “grandma,” I see her face. My paternal grandmother, who knew a lot of people, said Grandma McCarrick was the nicest person she had ever met.

When my parents divorced, Grandpa and Grandma McCarrick helped raise my siblings and me, making sure we were at church, school and work. They put hundreds of thousands of miles on their vehicles taking us where we needed to go. They provided countless meals for us in the form of Sunday lunches after church. They  packed grocery bags full of food and drinks for our workdays and put on exemplary holiday feasts. They made every holiday, every birthday, the most special day for us grandkids. They sacrificed to make sure we had everything we needed.

My grandmother loved children and she loved books. She served in the nursery at Clarkston United Methodist Church for many decades and helped establish the Clarkston Elementary School library.

She also loved the “old folks” as she would call them. I’m sure many of them were younger than her, but she would visit senior centers and deliver flowers to brighten their day.

The similarities here are that my dad and grandmother did not have to do any of these things. They freely chose to do them. That’s what makes their actions so special to me.

They were never forced or coerced to actively participate in my life. And rather than look for someone else or something else to fix a problem, they voluntarily stepped up themselves. In other words, they practiced the kind of self-government that characterizes a free and moral society.