We Can Use Life and Death Lessons From Paul Walker To Teach Our Children

I’ve never watched a Fast and Furious movie, but I’ve seen Paul Walker in some things.  He had a very confident air about him and seemed to have a good footing in mid-level Hollywood success. I was honestly not all that interested when I saw he’d been killed in a car crash, beyond thinking “that’s too bad”. But the continual trickling of information about him and his life, and death, made me think that his passing is a perfect basis for a conversation with our teens.  They already think we’re lame, so what’s there to lose? We should always ere of the safe side of too much information rather than too little, plus I’d rather have the satisfaction of “I told you so” than the momentary illusion that I was remotely cool to my teenager.

Let’s have this conversation with our kids and use Paul’s life as a fitting metaphor for the potential of success and failure in their lives based on decisions that they make. I did some research into Paul Walker’s life and the more I learned, the sadder I felt for his loss and for his family’s loss.

1)  Paul Walker was successful, but not overnight. He started out in bit parts for his teens and 20s and worked until he got picked up in the Fast and Furious movie series in his early 30s (which I believe was on the 7th movie when he died).  So, life is part hard work coupled with passion for something you love and part being in the right place at the right time and knowing when to take advantage of a situation and use it to your benefit.

2)  He was a well rounded person.  Paul starred in movies, but he lived his life outside of Hollywood for the most part.  He hiked and traveled the world. He had alot of friends, but he liked to go camping by himself. The lesson there is don’t get too focused on any one thing, live all parts of your life. Always give 110% at your job, no whining, no excuses – get in there and do it and do it right. But when it’s time to relax, get outside and enjoy nature and the outdoors. Realize it’s a big world and plan to travel and see it. There is nothing that will make you appreciate the USA like traveling abroad!  While it’s enjoyable to see different things, the difference between any country I’ve ever been to and America is night and day.

3) Paul Walker was a patriot and a Christian and he wasn’t afraid to tell it.  He wanted to join the military after 9/11 but either didn’t or couldn’t, I couldnt’ find the exact reason. But he always showed an interest in our freedom and our troops. He defined himself as a “gun loving hippie” and promoted peace and giving while enjoying and expressing his right to bear arms.  He was a proud contradiction! Our kids should recognize their rights as Americans and exercise them. They should also respect other’s rights to express theirs, even if a contradiction to their beliefs.

4)  He was humble. After his death, an employee of a prestigious jewelry store in LA came forward and recounted a story that Paul Walker was in shopping one day when he overheard a soldier who was home on leave telling his fiance that they could not afford the ring she liked. Paul called the employee over and said to put the ring on his tab and give it to the soldier but to not tell them who did it for them. Can you imagine the excellent free press he could have gotten for that act of generosity? But he chose to remain anonymous. We may not be able to pick up the tab for a diamond ring for someone, but maybe we can pick up the tab at Cracker Barrel or Waffle House and keep it quiet.  Your kid will be amazed at how good it feels to do good for others JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN and for no other reason.

5) He paid it forward.  After the earthquake in Haiti, Paul Walker realized there was a lack of trained first response teams in these 3rd world countries who could come in and manage a disaster, from rescue to medical care to food and clothing.  He started Reach Out Worldwide, a charity devoted to having trained volunteers ready for future needs. They most recently responded to the hurricane in the Phillipines providing medical care and first aid as well as thousands of meals to those in need.  We should always look for a way to be involved in our community, whether it’s donating to a cause we value or helping a person one on one. Our kids should know that the more love they give the world, the more love the world will send back to them.


6) He was a family man.  Paul was one of several children and had just served as his youngest brother’s best man the week before his death. He had sole custody of his young daughter.  We can teach our children that in addition to us having a responsibility to them, they have one to us.  If they die in some unnecessary accident, how will that affect their family?   Paul Walker is dead, he doesn’t suffer. But his Mom and Dad, siblings, and most of all his poor daughter will suffer every day for the rest of their lives thinking of him and the way he died. It’s your one and only life, protect it.

7) Real Life Accidents hurt. Paul’s autopsy showed he died of injuries from the impact and/or the fire. That means he was injured badly in the wreck, but he was still breathing (we don’t know if he was conscious or not) when he was burned to death. They know this because there was smoke in his lungs.  Death is not like a video game, you don’t just fall down and die and then play again. It’s permanent and it hurts and you’re alone when it happens.  I know that is a terrible thing to tell a kid, but this is a teen-ager, they need to know these things. Teen-agers are frequently the cause of their own deaths, whether by accidents, overdoses, or suicide and they should know.


8) One stupid decision is all it takes. Paul Walker had an awesome little red Porsche that was notoriously hard to handle. They were driving it too fast. Something happened and they wrecked and died. Perhaps a tire blew out or the guy driving just lost control. We don’t know.  But he made a few really bad decisions in the last few minutes of his life and everything he worked for, he loved, he valued – he lost.  No more charity, no more career, no more little daughter. Our kids should know that they control their decisions and a bad one can not only cost them their allowance, or phone, it could cost them their freedom or their future. Or even their life.  So if a friend can’t drive well, or is not sober, our child should be able to make a decision to not be a passenger. Our kid should be able to decide they themselves aren’t sober enough to drive. Our kid should be able to decide it’s not a good idea to lay tracks on a busy road in heavy traffic just because it sounds cool.

In short, Paul Walker lived a good life.  He may have lived a better life than most of you reading this and I know reading about his life makes me want to be a more charitable person. But his life is over, not because of illness or age or murder or a freak accident. His life is over because, after years of making good decisions, Paul Walker made a very very bad one.