Just about the time we think we have life all figured out, God throws us a curve. Is He just messing with us? Is He offering us a challenge to keep us humble? Or is it a reminder of from whence we came?
I remember from whence I came. It was from a working class, blue collar family. Probably low to mid range income (that doesn’t matter), but I specifically remember many lessons about our effort. It didn’t matter if it was a coloring session with Mom at the dining room table while my brother was at kindergarten, or a lesson from Dad about not accepting a sub-standard science product with an obvious mistake covered by white-out. I struggled with that science project.
It was a great idea. I traced the skeleton of the human body on newsprint. We always had newsprint around for drawing, since Dad worked at the newspaper in the pressroom. When the rolls of paper ran out, they could take the scraps and use for scrap paper at work or at home. I covered a piece of cardboard and made a bootleg easel for my display. Each different kind of bone was outlined with yarn held down by glue. I was a mastermind of creativity!
I was nearly finished, and the ink I was using to make notations of the type of bones left a horrible blob on the paper. Foiled again! Dangit! My fifth grade mind told me, “Go ahead, use white out. It’ll be fine.” Of course, bright white on newsprint to cover an ink blob looks horrible. All that work! No! All Dad said when I proudly showed him was, “You’d better do it over again.”
“What? No. It took so long, I can’t!” I pouted. I wasn’t about to sit there for three hours again. Guess again. Deep down, I knew he was right. Dad was always right. I knew I could do better. It didn’t sit right in my young mind to turn in less than my best work. After dinner, I sat down at the dining room table, while my brothers watched television in the living room, and I re-constructed my masterpiece.
It truly was magnificent, the second time around. It was something I was immensely proud of. I used different colored yarn around each type of bone. The teachers praised me. Dad never said anything more than, “That’s more like it.” Those few words went a long way in teaching me something that has stuck with me for a lifetime. I kept that project until I was well into my 40s. I finally threw it away after telling my kids the story of what it meant to me. I can picture it in my mind, perfectly.
Competing with others isn’t something I’ve done well. Booker T Washington says:
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.“
Measuring success by how we rank with others is necessary in academic world, the work world, and sports. In terms of individuals who are finding and living their own truth, it’s detrimental. We need to only look inside to determine our worth. We don’t have the same abilities, interests, background and experience. How can we compare ourselves to each other? We can’t.
We should be our own heroes. We all know how much effort it takes us to achieve something. Even more when we do it again to do it better, just to satisfy our own feeling of doing our best. It has taken me far in life. When I think of the painfully shy person with no confidence who I was, compared to the extrovert, who loves meeting new people, who is eager to learn from every encounter, and the value I place on relationships, I don’t recognize her.
With encouragement, love, and kindness, I’ve begun to measure my success by the effort and desire I put into the projects I’m working on; whether it’s a quilt or a book or a fundraiser, my heart is in everything I do. I can only feel the satisfaction in my soul upon putting in the work, and doing my best for that day. Thanks, Dad. You taught me well.
Thank you for reading today. Do your best, whatever you do today. I’ll be assembling the Christmas tree, and putting the new Christmas quilt (I bought it – couldn’t make one in time, so I accepted that fact and purchased a cute one) on the bed.
Do the best job you can in your life today. We can have a deep sense of satisfaction for doing it well. It’s a great feeling to have. Don’t stress over your holiday to-do list. If you do, someone has stolen your joy. Let this day be your best. You’ll know when you feel it in your heart. Have a beautiful day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.