I was blessed to have grown up in a wonderful home with parents who worked extremely hard to provide for our family. They grew up with next to nothing and it was their dream to see that my siblings and I had everything we could ever need. Their life as newlyweds and later, as a young family, was certainly not easy. The struggles they experienced truly molded them in ways they never expected and I’m so thankful for the quality of character I see in them.
Growing up, our toys were never extravagant, but what we had was given with love and sacrifice. Our clothes weren’t always bought off store racks, but we were always clean, fed, and well-dressed. We didn’t take many vacations, but our dinners were spent together around the kitchen table.
Life was lived without cell phones, ipads, and electronic games. Mom would take us to the public library once a week and we would mentally devour dozens of books each week. We played Scrabble, put together puzzles, and survived our childhood without cable television. In short, I lived a real and complete childhood.
My parents both came from poor backgrounds, but knew how to work hard, buy quality goods and take care of the things they had. My dad wouldn’t spend money on something overpriced, nor would he buy junk. My mom knew how to buy quality clothing and household goods by frequenting yard sales. In short, they knew how to spend their money properly and raised my siblings and I to do the same.
There were many lessons they wanted to teach us, but the ones that resonated the loudest were, perhaps, the ones they taught silently. Our testimony, the way we live our day-to-day life, is what will continue to speak when our words cannot reach.
Take care of it, it’ll last longer.
Growing up in a household without a disposable income, we were taught to take pride in ownership. Everything costs a certain amount of money and money doesn’t grow on trees, so we were expected to take care of our clothes, toys and property. Our yard was painstakingly cared for by each member of the family. We were raised to weed the flower beds, wash the windows, and sweep the sidewalks. We were taught to pick up after ourselves (which didn’t always happen) and to help put things away (even if they weren’t our things). My mom has an incredibly high standard of cleanliness, which often frustrated us as kids. Of course, as adults we now understand why she wiped down the trash can so often and cleaned the refrigerator 1-2 times a month. Mom always kept our vehicles meticulously clean and vacuumed – 15 years later they’re still driving a van that looks new on the inside. We learned from an early age not to needlessly damage our toys by throwing them across the room, mishandling, or leaving them outside in the rain. (Although there was that one time my brother set his G.I. Joes on fire in one of mom’s skillets). We learned to take care of the things we owned and loved because we knew replacing them wasn’t considered to be a necessary expense.
Nothing is worth doing halfway.
If you’re going to do something, do it whole-heartedly with a full-effort. What’s the point in mowing only half of your lawn? Why would you only clean half of your room? Why bother cleaning at all, if you’re not going to do it well? My parents lived this lesson on a day-to-day basis. Whatever they did, they always did their best to do it right the first time. It may have meant doing a little extra research or using a little more elbow-grease and energy, but in the end it was always worth it to know it was done the right way. To this day, my subconscious won’t allow me to do a job halfway. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be done well. Whether it’s your homework, cleaning the bathroom, weeding the garden, or simply making your bed, put forth the effort and do it well.
Whatever you do, do it well.” – Walt Disney
If so-and-so jumped off a cliff, would you?
We’ve probably all heard this phrase at least once in our lives. And to be honest, my parents didn’t really say it all that often. But they did seize every possible opportunity to teach us that our decisions shouldn’t be based on what everyone else was doing. It was a hard lesson to learn growing up, but my parents really made it a point to teach us that, as Christians, we lead lives that will often mark us an oddball to the world. There were many times I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to do something that other kids were doing. There were always questions about certain holidays we didn’t celebrate or movies we didn’t watch. My dad always, ALWAYS, sat down and explained everything to me in a way I could understand. Not once did he say, we’ll talk about it later or I’ll tell you when you’re older. He always considered every question or situation as an opportunity to teach me something important. As such, I learned to consider his words carefully and I grew to fully appreciate his patience and wisdom. Even now, I know I can always depend on him to give me his best answer, whenever I need it.
Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace
Leave it better than when you found it.
It didn’t matter whose house we were visiting or for what occasion, my mom could always be found in the kitchen washing dishes. If you don’t believe me, invite her over for supper and see if she doesn’t try to clean your kitchen down for you. I learned so much from her constant example of a servant’s heart. My mom is truly giving and always looking for the opportunity to serve someone else. My parents raised us to do the same when we visited our friend’s houses. They didn’t send us out the door with a list of things we should accomplish before coming back home, but rather it was a way of living that we had come to know by our parent’s example. I would often visit the homes of my friends and help their mom wash the dishes. Did I always wash the dishes at my own house? Nope. But we were raised to leave an impression on those we came in contact with, by helping when we could and cleaning up after ourselves. My dad always said, “Leave it better than when you found it.” He often recounted the story of a young man who visited our house for the weekend. This young man slept on an air mattress in a spare room and the day he left he carefully took each blanket and sheet, FOLDED them, and placed them neatly stacked on the floor. My mom was shocked and ready to adopt him immediately. Knowing the impression that young man left on my parents, I’ve always taken this particular lesson to heart and strive to make the same impression in the homes I stay in.
Don’t try to win, just try to lose by one.
Perhaps my favorite lesson I’ve learned from my dad, is the lesson that you don’t always have to win. He taught me, instead, to lose by one. It sounds a little crazy, but when you think about it, it’s a win-win situation. If you lose by one, you have the personal satisfaction of accomplishing what you set out to do. You also allow the other person to win. So, even if they gloat about their victory, you’ll know…you could have won if you really wanted to. 😉 It’s ok to have a quiet sort of pride in your abilities and accomplishments. If you’ve been known to be furiously competitive in simple board games, consider trying to “lose by one” next time. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how great it feels to let someone else take home the victory title for game night.
I count myself so blessed to have been raised by individuals of such character and quality. Being a parent myself, I know that it isn’t an easy job. It is, in fact, one of the most difficult jobs in the world and requires far more character, discipline, and responsibility than any other job known to man. But most of all, it requires a selfless love and a desire to care and nurture as God intended. There were many times my parents knew we weren’t listening, but they can rest assured that even with our ears plugged our eyes are wide open to view their constant example of selflessness and love.
I would love to hear some of the favorite lessons you’ve learned from your own parents. 🙂