Sunday, January 7, 2007

January 7, 2007 Teaching Responsibility

Consider This for January 7, 2007-Teaching Responsibility

In the spring of 1956 I bought my first car for $200 from Chuck Bigelow. It was a 1949 Ford Capri coupe with a flathead V 8 and a four speed manual transmission. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven.

Within a week I had blown the clutch and my new used car was parked in my parents driveway totally disabled. I had spent my entire life’s savings on the car and did not have any money to get it fixed.

I finally earned enough money working for Chuck’s brother Ray in his machine shop that I could buy the parts to fix my car. After several days of trying to do the repair myself I decided to ask Chuck to do the work for me. I think it took him about two hours to accomplish what I had failed at over a week or two.

Owning your own car is a great way to learn responsibility.

I owned two more cars in the next couple of years and I know that I learned more about life from those cars than I ever did in school.

I have always thought that the most important factor in creating a great society is having the very best education system that money can buy. That refers to public and private education systems as well as what you might learn in life on your own. The school of hard knocks. The kind of education that exacts a quick and painful lesson that you will never forget.

Some examples might be the first time someone punches out your lights for having a smart mouth. You might learn a great lesson by not slowing down on an icy curve and totaling your car. It might be fun to run up the balances on your credit cards only to find out that at some point you will get a bill. The second half of that lesson on that one is when you decide to pay off your Visa with one of those handy dandy checks you get from MasterCard. Now you have double the pleasure, double the fun and double the pain of having to pay off several credit cards instead of just one. A deep dark hole is that one.

For about fifteen years I facilitated the local Tough Love group for parents in Summit County. We met weekly to discuss the latest and greatest challenge parents were experiencing with their children. The youngest child whose behavior we discussed was about five years old. The oldest was a forty year old son who regularly beat up his seventy year old mother.

The common thread running through the group was that each and every parent believed that they had done everything possible for their child. That was the good news and the bad news. The good news was that they loved their child enough to give them any and every thing that they wanted. The bad news is that they loved their child too much to ever let them learn personal responsibility by letting them have to work for what they had in life. To love them enough to let them fall down and get hurt because falling down and getting hurt might do them some good in life.

The second most common thread was that there might be five children in the family and only one was having problems. All had the same parents and were raised in the same house yet one would end up in prison while the other four would go on in life and succeed beyond their parent’s expectations.

Yet most of us learn the same lessons without going to jail or prison.

It has been over fifty years since I owned that 1949 Ford Capri but the lessons just keep coming on a daily basis.

During our most recent snow storm I managed to step off my rear deck twice into waist deep snow. That is an interesting lesson when you are totally alone and struggling to get back above the snow.

About the same time I learned that my daughter’s Saturn does not have the traction that my Honda Accord has on an ice covered Dickey Curve north of Farmer’s Korner on Highway 9. As the car was sliding sideways I realized that I was learning another of life’s lessons. My greatest hope is that I can survive those lessons and emerge alive.

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