• Work Ethic (11/3/2019) - I read recently that two-thirds of all parents in the United States give their children a weekly allowance of $30.

    I read recently that two-thirds of all parents in the United States give their children a weekly allowance of $30.  I was taken aback by that knowledge, wondering how you could justify giving a child that much.  It’s not that I begrudge them having that money, but it’s the fact they probably did nothing to earn it.

    I remember when I started giving my two children an allowance.  They were 8-10 years old and their mother came to me one day and said, “We need to start giving the kids an allowance”.  I agreed but thought they should earn it.  They were wonderful children, but I was sure handing them unearned money would not build good character.

    So, we sat down with them one day and told them our plan:  They would get a weekly allowance of $2 (equivalent to $14 today), but they had to make their bed every morning before school, take out the trash after breakfast and scoop up the dog poop in the yard upon returning home from school. If any of their school report cards showed a grade below “C” their allowance would stop immediately and only resume after the next report card showed “C” or better. 

    That plan worked well, tho my daughter grumbled a lot about the “dog poop” thing.  Seems her friends in the neighborhood would come by our house and make fun of her as she dutifully scooped up after our beloved dog. 

    I think the important thing both learned was that everything in life must be earned and that includes love, friendship, and success.  What message are we sending to our children when we give them a weekly allowance with no expectations?

    My best friend in high school became a billionaire.  His parents were not poor, but they insisted he earn his money.  He sold newspapers, cut grass, and drove a school bus.  In college, he busted tables and paid his own way.  Would he have succeeded had his parents not insisted he work?  Maybe, but I think it played a big role in his success.  We still see each other at high school reunions and he’s still the same old fellow I enjoyed being around as a kid.  I can’t say for sure, but I’ll bet he did the same with his children. 

    I recall telling a co-worker back in the ‘70’s about my son’s successful athletic exploits and he looked me in the eyes and said plaintively, “But have you taught him how to make money?”  The answer to that, unknown to me at the time, was yes.  My son went on to be very successful in his career.  I prefer to think it’s because he started early in life earning his way.

    Suze Orman said, “The key to making money is to stay invested”.  Now that’s a horse we should all be riding!   

       🏈My wife and I were returning from a trip to visit our grand kids in Tennessee a few weeks ago, and we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and walk around the campus for about 10 minutes.  As we returned to our truck, a young man, looking to be in his late 20s, approached us and asked for help. 

    He had, according to him, $23.50 and needed $20 more to get him, his wife, and daughter, to their destination in Arkansas.  His eyes were filled with tears as he recalled serving in Iraq and Pakistan and being unable to find a job upon his return home.  The AC in his truck had ceased to work and his wife & child were suffering immensely.  He informed me that he had contemplated giving me his wedding ring if I would help.  He, of course, knew that no one would take it. 

    I was concerned by the constant flow of tears that found their way down his cheeks and dropped painfully on the pavement.  I decided to help him, but I had one condition: take me to meet your family.  He stuttered and said, “They’re in the truck over on the other side (where large trucks park), and I really don’t want my wife to know that I’m out here begging for help”. 

    I replied again that I would help him, but he had to take me to meet his family.  He said he couldn’t do that, it would upset his wife and he would feel so ashamed to admit to her how bad the situation was.  I then said very bluntly that I could not help him if he was unwilling to abide my request.  He said he understood and walked away.  We left the Rest Area feeling confident that we did the right thing, but I was a little embarrassed about how easily I was seduced into believing that young man’s story.  

    I have forgiven that young man for his deceit but as Ken Hubbard said, “No one ever forgets where he buried the hatchet”.  I’m hoping I don’t retrieve that hatchet with my next encounter with someone down and out on their luck.

     🏈“Thank You”.  How often do you hear someone say that after you have helped them in some way?  Maybe you sent them a gift for a special day, or it could have been for no reason other than you wanted to bring a smile to their face.  Maybe, they were in a bind and you helped as much as you could? 

    I think we have all been guilty of not saying, “Thank You”, as often as we should, and we tend to put the blame on a younger generation.  I can remember as a young boy not saying it very much and my mother’s condemnation after each failure to do so. 

    As I grew older, I became aware of the importance of thanking someone that lent a hand, gave me a gift, or just showed me kindness when I needed it.  As a Christian, I constantly thank God for his many kindnesses to me, but I do know that I should thank each person that does that as well.  Newly weds often receive many gifts, and it is vitally important they respond to each gift given.  Parents should teach their children to always respond to people that shower them with love, affection, and gifts.

    We have all heard that “It is better to give than to receive” and that may very well be true, but I also believe that statement should be expanded to include, “but the receiver should always say thank you”.  I think that helps build good character.

    Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.” – Heraclitus

  • Teachers Make Excellent Friends (1/14/2020) - I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan. I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography. But, thinking back to my childhood I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area.

    ⚽ I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan.  I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography.  But, thinking back to my childhood I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area.  I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Nichols was my teacher and the Geography book was large, with pictures, and I would prop it up on my desk, lay my head down on my hands and go to sleep.  Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher, caring deeply about her students, but she couldn’t watch everyone all the time and I knew that.  I got a lot of sleep in class that year and I’m guessing that’s why my geographical knowledge is deficient.  Ms. Nichols was the first person to tell me that I was a good athlete and that I would do well in high school athletics.  She was the first adult to be interested in teaching me about things I knew nothing about.  I believe most adults are unaware that children want to be taught things, to be made aware of things they have no idea even exist.  And I’ll bet that all of you had that special teacher that was interested in teaching so that you could absorb what they wanted you to know.  Just think of how hard it must be to teach a fifth grader mathematics, or history, and keep their attention.  She taught me in grades 4 -6 in our little country 2-room school.  Afterwards, I left for our local high school (grades 7–12), about 4 miles away, and lost track of her, only seeing her occasionally.  Looking back on how special she was, I hope she had a good, fruitful life.  Within the last few years I have made contact with her daughter and we have become good friends.  I doubt that she knows how many lives her mom touched in positive ways.  Her many students owe her a debt of gratitude. Sadly, we only become aware of that as we grow older.  I wonder if teachers can intuit a student’s appreciation.  After all, it is the teachers we remember when we recall our educational experiences.  Quite a few of my high school classmates went on to become teachers and, I must admit, teachers make very good friends.  I remember being on a cruise ship leaving Alaska and in the dining room, next to our table, was a table of perhaps 20 teachers on vacation.  That was the happiest table in the room, with laughter emanating constantly.  What great fun it was to be close enough to enjoy their enthusiasm for life.  So, my suggestion is, if you’re looking for a friend, go out and find a teacher, you won’t regret it.

    ⚽About six weeks ago I had some “floaters” appear in my right eye so off I go to see my optometrist.  He splatters a few eye drops into it and, using his complex equipment, tells me he thinks they will go away, but I should come back to see him before the end of the year.  So, just a few days before the end of 2019 I walk into his office for my appointment, he plops a few more eye drops in the offending eye, makes his exam and says everything looks great and that he will see me at my scheduled time next October.  As I prepared to depart, being the nice doctor, he is, he inquires as to what I’m doing to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.  “Well doc”, says I, “At my age my wife and I don’t celebrate the coming of the new year as much as we celebrate being here to see it happen”.  

    Probably, regardless of our age, we should celebrate in that manner.  Instead of writing down a list of 5 or 10 things we want to accomplish in the new year, we should just be thankful we are here to juggle the things life throws at us for another year. I must admit that I enjoy looking back over the past year at the twist and turns my life took.  Invariably, there are moments of sheer joy but there are also times of incredible stress and sadness.

    My Mother was, perhaps, the best person I knew that handled stress easily.  If the problem was money, she would calmly say, “Tommy Joe, it’s only money, we still have our health to be thankful for.  God will provide for us”.   I was a teenager at the time and I quite clearly remember thinking, “Mom, we’re almost destitute, are you sure God has the time to worry about us?”   If the sadness was because someone dear to us had passed away, her response was always, “They’re in a better place”.  That response never helped me much, but she was put to the test when Dad passed away.  During that time, she seemed more worried about my brother and I than herself.  She passed away 18 months later, leaving my brother, and I devastated. 

    I know that the arrival of a new year is celebrated around the world and I want to be part of that if possible. 

    ⚽ I have spent a lot of time recently, collecting the many leaves that fall from our trees and it is a worrisome job.  I use my blower to dislodge the ones hiding behind the many shrubs that surround our home and then I use my Craftsman yard vac to shred then into a thousand pieces and then dump them in a large compost pile my neighbor, Cal, uses for his garden in the spring.  As I have gotten older, the effort has become greater, but I keep doing it because I know the activity it requires is good for me.  I think it is important, as we age, to maintain a certain amount of physical activity and gathering up those errant leaves provides me that opportunity. 

    I have often wondered if I didn’t have that activity, would I remember fall?  Yes, just like you, I enjoy the wonderful kaleidoscopes of colors it presents each year.  Spring brings us colors also, but it’s not the trees so much as the flowers.  Although, I must admit I enjoy seeing the verdant greens that come forth each time winter fades, and warmer weather arrives.  It has been said that “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”.  Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and I’m willing to take just about any road that will get me to that place in life where I don’t have to rake leaves, cut grass, repair everything that breaks down and feel completely exhausted when the sun descends below the horizon.  Some may think that only happens after you transition to the other side but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want it to happen while I’m on the green side of the grass.  David Thoreau said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.   I kinda think that’s not entirely true.

    ⚽I ran across this quote the other day and thought it interesting, “We are rarely proud when we are alone”.  I’m inclined to agree with that thought, by whoever had it.  I have been alone at times in my life and I believe you can have someone around, but if they are disinterested in you, then you are alone.  I remember playing four years of high school football, and doing quite well in that endeavor, but the person I wanted to impress the most was my mother, and she only attended one game.  Dad was always there but he would be drinking, and he embarrassed my brother and I in front of our classmates.  I loved him dearly, but I hated for my friends to see him “high”.  Anyway, no matter the success I had as an athlete, my mother wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, so I had a hard time being proud.  I remember being single after my ex-wife and I divorced and doing things without someone with me.  I would go to a movie without someone there to enjoy it with and I felt the emptiness that comes with being alone in this world with no one to share life’s adventures.  Make no mistake, life is filled with wonderful moments if we choose to acknowledge them, but when we are alone, the colors of life are not quite so deep, the air is not quite as refreshing and our accomplishments not quite as joyous. Some wise person once said, “When we want to ignore something, we don’t look too hard into the sunlight”.  I avoided looking into the sunlight a lot as a younger person, but I find myself gazing into it often as I have gotten older 😊.