When I was growing up, my dad was a man of few words, but many actions. And in my 13-year-old opinion, far too many actions. Case in point: car washing. It took my dad forever to wash and clean out a car. He painstakingly, meticulously detailed each nook and cranny, until the automobile was practically back to show-room worthy. He wasn’t slow, he was sure. He was sure to do things right, or at the very least, do his best to do things right. He worked hard, kept his word, took care of things, and took care of me. And at 13, or even six or 16, I don’t know if I quite appreciated the way my dad always got things done. I would have rather he, like so many other adults, just talk about doing them, or take shortcuts to get them done in a more timely manner. However, neither of those options were ones my dad was willing to take. So, I continued to watch him do things, and do them well. Regardless of the amount of work, patience or time they took, and much to the chagrin of his young son.
Then, something happened. As high school was winding down, and life out in the big world for me was winding up, I realized something: I could do things. A lot of things, and a lot of things a lot of my friends couldn’t do. Whether it was small home improvements, car repairs, reading the financial section of the paper and somewhat understanding it, or driving a combine, I was your guy. I hadn’t gone to school for any of these things, and I certainly had not done any sort of formal apprenticeship. I simply had the privilege of having a front row seat, watching a one-man, life-long, almost silent infomercial of how to do things, to the best of one’s ability. To do them well. To do them right.
Fast-forward to my own home of a few years ago, full of rambunctious boys, restless and a little frustrated at the fact the tools had to put back in their places, or the expensive shoes their grandmother bought them couldn’t be left in the middle of the floor, or that we periodically stopped what our family was doing to take a few minutes to help a family less fortunate than ours.
Now, fast-fast-forward to the home of my son, as I sit and watch him with his son, my grandson. Every puzzle piece is put back in the box. Every toy is put back on the shelf. Every chance to help a neighbor or open the door for an elderly person is witnessed and endured by an energetic, playful, three-year-old. Will it matter? Well, we’re into our fourth generation of running on the fact that it most certainly has.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is no use to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself.” Thanks for the vacations, ball games and days at the lake, Dad. But, most of all, thanks for doing, and doing well right. It stuck!!