Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wisdom from Pops

A lot of the things I do, I realize, are because of things I watched my parents do when I was a kid. Though they did not have a college education (what I call "formal" education), they had a lot of wisdom. It's amazing how well their strategies from the farm hold up in my work with city kids 30 years later.

Lesson #1: Earn your keep.
My parents have always been big on "earning" what you get. I don't remember ever receiving an allowance. We had chores that we were just expected to do...bring in wood for the fireplace, empty the dishwasher, set the table, gather the eggs, mow the lawn, etc. I do, however, remember having a time card and getting paid for working on the farm and doing things that needed to be done. ...running the pigs on Saturday morning (that may only make sense if you were raised on a farm. :)), raking hay in the hot sun, helping my parents balance their farm account at tax time, and other things like that.

Lesson #2: Give back to the community.

There were times my parents gave generous donations to people or organizations. However, my dad always made room in his budget to hire a high school kid or two to work with him on the farm. Through that, I believe, many of us who worked for him learned a lot about job skills, work ethic, and earning our keep.

Lesson #3: Live so that people respect you.
Dad has always been very involved in the community--from politics to Lion's Club to school board. He is involved. He is fair. He listens to what people want--even if they are griping and complaining. Because of the way he has conducted himself over the years, our family name carries a lot of weight in our small town.

Lesson #4: Never doubt the ability of a child.
Lesson #5: Teach kids about investing while they are young.
When I was in first grade my parents took me to the bank to open a checking account. I can then remember my dad "making" me buy a calf from him and teaching me to write a check. He told me he would take care of and feed the calf along with the rest of his herd and then he would sell it for me so I could make a profit. (I still think he forgot to ever give me the proceeds on that calf...but at least I learned the lesson about investing and what buying low, selling high meant.).

At 16, we took a trip to the stock broker. Dad had the stock broker explain the stock options. Though I didn't (and still don't) understand the stock market very well, he allowed me to listen and make my own decision about how to invest my money in stocks. (If I would've listened to my dad and invested in Wal-mart, today I would probably be much better off financially...but he allowed me to make my own decision.)

Both of my parents did things that, through all of my higher educational studies, I have found are very sound...and even progressive...educational practices.

On this Father's Day, I want to say

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