Whenever we get to know someone well we usually notice something about them that they do in an excellent way – an area in which they excel. These traits or skills come out in the stories we tell, but this post is a way for me to focus on them, and flesh out some of the characters in our family memories. Someday a new generation will want to know where they got their love of music, or why they long to start their own business, why they are so good at playing Scrabble or knitting. Whether these things are passed along through genes or through good teaching, they link us to the past and they give us something to pour into the future.
My immediate family consists of my parents and four brothers. I will start with my dad, and there is no wondering what he contributed. Dad was and still is, king of the work ethic. I never saw him sitting around with no purpose. In fact he worked so hard and continuously that on the occasions he did sit down he usually fell asleep from exhaustion. Even in play, Dad was active and engaged. He modeled that so well that all of us children value honest, hard work and feel obliged to be producers, not just consumers. And hard work does pay off. Thank you Dad.
Mom worked hard as well, but somehow in the midst of all that was required in raising a family of five, she found time to read. She finished high school by correspondence course, and went on to follow her interests in history, theology, psychology and literature. She still reads more than I do and loves to hear what others are reading. Books and the ideas in them are interesting to her and she has worked hard to pass that along. One of her most memorable challenges to her children and grandchildren was to pay $25 to anyone who finished reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey. We are very responsive to bribes and I think nearly everyone read the book.
I was the eldest child and it was probably the perfectionist bent common to the firstborn that made me very competitive academically. I was good at tests and ended up being valedictorian of my class. I loved music and my exposure to church music and piano lessons gave me a medium level of skill in those areas. I was a fair actress and loved being in plays. I was handy at home and can remember being the babysitter when my parents went out. I rushed to get the dishes all washed, the kitchen cleaned up and finished by washing the floor with the dishwater! I read a lot and it was “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” that made me think that was what I wanted to be.
My brother Ron, the oldest of the boys, was a big thinker and ardent optimist. One of his early goals, which he was sure he could accomplish, was to ride his bike down our hill with five ice cream cones in each hand. Not a very useful goal, but bursting with self-confidence. He was mechanically inclined at an early age, and also loved wood shop in high school. One of his projects was to make a copy of a spinning wheel for my Mom which was beautiful, and probably would have worked if anyone had known how to spin. He has always loved to engage people in conversation. I was always envious of how all the old ladies in the neighborhood thought he was such a charming kid.
Robert was next and he was/is the performer of the family. His ability to let loose, and become a character without inhibition always surprised my Mom. It led to him being emcee of public school functions, a singer and a drum major for the school band. He was a DJ for the local radio station while in high school and went on to establish a mobile DJ service for dances and weddings. To the family he is Bobino, or chef Jean Clauded Pierre (I might have that wrong, but it’s some Frenchy name) who shows up at family gatherings with all the ingredients for fabulous muffins and a great time in the kitchen.
Gary, boy number three, was the sensitive, helper type. He would do anything for anyone in need and had no trouble finding projects. All the boys were athletically inclined and great at sports in high school, but Gary especially was a basketball star, starting on the varsity team as a freshman. Being a good helper meant he was good at picking up skills and today he does all kinds of carpentry and has a custom tile business.
All of my brothers work for themselves in their own businesses, but it was Dennis the youngest, who really exhibited entrepreneurial skills early in life. He was a cute kid and could talk people into buying ridiculous things from him. He set up a roadside stand and was always selling something – seashells that we picked from the beach in Florida, huge, yellowing cucumbers from the late garden, and of course lemonade. He was the organizer of the neighborhood, always planning things for himself and his friends to do. Sometimes Mom would tell him he couldn’t do something, but never one to worry, he would just tweak the plan until he could get it to work.
So, for the record, these are some of the ways my family has excelled. I love to name and celebrate their exceptional qualities. I can also see these traits being picked up by the next generation as they get educated, start to work, and raise families of their own. I am grateful for my family and the blessings that God has given us.
What exceptional qualities do you recognize in those closest to you? How could you affirm/bless by acknowledging them?