Beer, Jelly Beans, and Respect

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Beer, Jelly Beans, and Respect

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years already since I last saw my Dad. At the time, we had three kids in college, one in high school, and my husband was looking for a new job … it probably wasn’t the best time to go on a trip.  But I learned over the years to trust, respect, and listen to the voice inside that said:

“It’s time to go visit your Dad. Oh, and by the way you all must go.”

Hmm … no easy feat with four different Spring Breaks to contend with and some other logistical challenges. Either way, it went amazingly well as we managed to get the six of us out there over the course of four weeks accommodating all of the different Spring Breaks and locations with unbelievable ease and joy.  It’s as though it was meant to be, and I do believe it was because a little over a month later my Dad passed away. He was not sick when we visited. Our last memories were full of joy, laughter and togetherness.

While there was sadness at his passing, his ‘Celebration of Life’ was filled with dancing, the quality taste of Belgian beer, and the rich community that built the fabric of his later years. While the food and drink were planned, speeches were not. I was asked to say a few words, and thought about what reminded me of my Dad. Who he was, and who he taught me to be.

I was raised to treat everyone with respect, and knew this needed to be the foundation of any talk. As any LePlae gathering would have it, there needed to be some humor and some practical reminders of how this message was delivered on a daily basis in small and large ways. No LePlae gathering would be complete without laughter.

Respect is the foundation of all of my values and beliefs.

  • To love, we must respect another enough to allow them to be their best self.
  • To appreciate or have gratitude, we must respect the offering and efforts of others and of our world.
  • To feel compassion, respect enables dignity to remain at the forefront of our intention.
  • To communicate, we must open our eyes and ears to see, hear, and respect one another.
  • To negotiate, we must respect the path another has walked in order to find common ground, and to understand both sides.

I can go on and on, but I think you see a theme here. While I didn’t write anything down at the time, the eulogy centered around 3 things:  ‘Beer, Jelly Beans, and Respect’.  What an odd combination to talk about at your Dad’s funeral/celebration of life. True, but then again it fits the odd combination of my thoughts as well.

Let’s start by talking about beer. I have loved the taste of beer since I can remember. I was probably three years old when I started taking sips from my Dad’s beer glass. He had no idea for a long time.   Each time he left the room I would walk over and take a sip of his beer. On occasion he would look at my four brothers and older sister and ask who was drinking his beer. No one would respond. As the youngest of six kids, I often slipped by unnoticed.

One day he came into the room and saw baby Susan drinking his beer. Aha!  At some point over the years, he brought out a small juice glass and poured me a little sip of my own. This kept me legitimate, and he knew in the long run I would have less that way. You see, my Dad was 100% Belgian, the son of immigrants, and a lover of an occasional beer. His daughter is quite the same. Growing up in a multicultural home, I was used to new accents, new foods, new perspectives as my relatives were from different parts of Europe. It was natural for me to hear things in a different way and I learned to respect cultural differences.

Which leads me into the next topic – Jelly beans.  What do Jelly Beans have to do with respect?

Under my Dad’s chair he often kept candy. Sometimes it was on the right side, sometimes on the left, sometimes in the front, sometimes in the back. But it was under there, and we all knew it. We also knew that when the candy came out, we were each allowed to take one of each color, and only one of each color. You could trade and barter with anyone in the room, but that was our share, and we each took our portion.

Everyone had their own way of eating jelly beans. Some ate their favorite one first, others ate it last. Eventually you learned to like them all. Which usually ended up being a maximum of 8 jelly beans:  red, orange, yellow, green, white, black, pink, and purple.

So what did this teach me? Each color was equally represented. We each had the same portion. And, we each had our own favorites. Yes, on occasion there was some negotiating involved, but eventually I learned it was best if I just ate my own 8 jelly beans. My favorites changed from year-to-year, but soon I learned to like all 8 colors and the flavor they brought to my life. We did this with everything:  M&M’s, Starburst, and foil wrapped candy.

“But Susan, M&M’s and foil wrapped candy taste the same no matter what color they are.” And that is quite exactly the point.

Some candy may taste a little different, and some does not. We had our fair share, learning to respect our portion and to appreciate each flavor for what it was. In these little ways, we began to understand that our different flavors or wrappings might impact how we experience the world. In these little ways, we began to understand the importance of, even more than accepting, embracing these differences.

And all of this leads me back to respect. The stories my Dad told when he came home from the office were often about a person at the bake shop, a person cleaning the office, an admin, another manager, or a CEO. No weight was given more to one than the other. They were all equal. In fact most of the stories were about everyday people.

When we went to a restaurant (which was rare for a family of eight), there was fun banter with the server, the owner, pretty much anyone. We were a friendly sort, and many knew us by name or face. We were taught to notice the little things. To always say please and thank you. To look people in the eye and acknowledge their presence. To respect.

It was no surprise when my first “real” job in high school was to bus tables at a local restaurant. I thought it was quite fun as I enjoyed the challenge of keeping tables clean, helping the servers out, and making sure our customers were happy. Some would do the friendly banter thing with me that our family did with restaurant staff. Others would not even look me in the eye. But I knew I was there to do a job, I would enjoy whatever aspects I could, and try to bring joy in the process. Crabby customers could be fun, but I knew not to bother with the ones who didn’t realize I existed.

On my last day, I had tears in my eyes knowing my time there was over.  To this day, I always look the busser in the eye and say thank you. Whether they’re clearing my plate, or filling my water, I’m generous with my smiles and appreciation for each thing they do to make my dining experience better.

Whether it be differences in culture, people, or the flavor of jelly beans, the value of each lesson was built upon respect. That I will carry with me forever. So in keeping with tradition, I have a beer in my hand as I wish my Dad well for passing on a foundation to last a lifetime.


Susan LePlae Miller is a business consultant, coach, speaker and poet.  Her personal why is to “Value each person for who they actually are” and her life mantra is to “Know your value, Live your values”. 

As Founder of Pieces of I, LLC, Susan integrates the mission, vision, and values within your team to help maximize your impact. By embracing diversity, she helps utilize team members’ unique passions, values, and abilities in a way to help overcome challenges and accomplish objectives.

Susan is co-author of two books and an avid content creator on LinkedIn:  


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