photo by epicharmus
My husband, Bill, is a self-made man. The youngest in his family, he was the first to graduate from high school, although for all the mischief he got into it was by the skin of his teeth. As good as he was academically, he had a habit of skipping classes, showing up only to take the test after cramming all night. He barely made the attendance requirements for graduation.
In spite of his dysfunctional family circumstances and hanging out with friends who did drugs and petty crime, Bill decided he wanted more out of life. At age eighteen, fresh out of high school and without a clue of how to go about doing anything, he decided he wanted to work with the big financiers on Wall Street (he lived in Brooklyn at the time).
He donned the only suit coat his family had, the one owned by his older, and twice as big, brother, and went door to door up and down Wall Street asking for a job. He had no experience, so no one was interested in hiring a skinny kid from Brooklyn who didn’t even have the sense to find a jacket that fit him.
This went on for days and weeks until he came to where he started, and he began all over again, visiting the same places he had already been to, asking them one more time if they would hire him to do something, anything.
Someone at Standard & Poor’s took pity on him and hired Bill for the mailroom. He arrived early and stayed late. As he made his deliveries he would seek out the department manager and ask to borrow all his policy and procedure manuals. On his down time he studied these manuals, and in short time knew how Standard & Poor’s worked inside and out.
By the time he was twenty-one, Bill had worked his way up to being the youngest credit manager in S&P’s history, supervising others who just assumed he had a college degree and was older than he was.
All this, I’m sure, is very interesting to you, but I actually have a point in sharing all this. All of our children know this story. They’ve heard how their dad took the equivalent of three years of college, with a few writing courses at this school and a few business classes at that school, enough to make him very effective in his work but not enough to earn him a degree.
They’ve heard how he left Wall Street and became a police officer for the city of Baltimore. He’s told them about people he’s met, good and bad decisions he’s made, things he wished he had done differently, and where his work ethic and study habits got him. They’ve heard some of the stories of his dysfunctional upbringing (not all of them, some of them are just way too wacky to share) and how and why he chose to rise above it.
They know inside and out his testimony of giving his life to Christ.
Bill has shared the benefit of his life experiences, good and bad, with his children. The result of imparting all these stories is that the children have received a wealth of wisdom, especially since Bill always relates his circumstances in relation to where he was with his Christian walk at the time. In fact, his children (his sons especially) think he is the wisest person they know.
Someone contacted me recently suggesting that I teach on how parents can get their kids to respect them. Too many children behave sassily, and their parents let them. There’s more involved with earning your children’s respect than telling stories, but when the goal of sharing past experiences is to impart knowledge and wisdom, respect comes along for the ride.
I can honestly say that, although there have been debates and arguments between Bill and any one of the children, I don’t ever recall any of the kids being disrespectful in their discourse. Bill wouldn’t put up with it, but it’s kind of hard to proclaim disrespect to a father who’s shown such spirit, perseverance and tenacity in the face of adversity and is willing to pass down what he’s learned to his children.
If you want your children to honor you as their parent, share with them the wisdom of your past experience. Even if it initially comes across as the ol’ walked-two-miles-to-school-in-three-feet-of-snow-uphill-both-ways kind of story, share it anyway. You’ll be teaching your children a valuable lesson in obeying the fifth commandment as well as preparing them for their future.
What are some of the stories your parents or grandparents shared with you growing up? What kind of impact did these stories have on you?