According to an old nursery rhyme, Friday’s child is loving and giving but Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
My mother took her status as a Saturday Child very seriously. She believed clean floors, clean clothes and clean dishes were requirements of a loving, healthy home. As a mother of 12 children that meant she was rarely without a dust cloth in her hand or dish towel around her waist. I remember waking up as a young child at 5 AM to see my mother ironing and then years later coming home after 11 PM to find her on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. I was never as meticulous as mom, but I tried, like her, to maintain a clean, inviting home and follow her practice of never retiring for the night with dirty dishes in the sink. For many years, it did not appear that I was able to pass this clean dish idea on to my children. However, my youngest moved away from home last year and is living with a roommate in an apartment situation for the first time. He found the adjustment a challenge. I laughed when I heard him complain about his roommate’s inability to wash a dish when he used it. I guess it should not have been a surprise to realize that as I had learned from my mother, my son has learned from me.
I believe in the power of example. It is an old cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true: children imitate us, their elders. From us, they learn how to speak, dress, think and, most of all, behave: what and whom to respect, whether to wage war or seek peace, whether to reach out to those in need or turn their backs, whether to share blessings or horde possessions, whether to become a positive light that warms others or a creature of fear and anger. Even though it is critical for us to respect our children and to maintain an open dialogue, I believe our actions teach more profoundly than any spoken word. We have the power to create the world we want to see—a world of opportunity, respect for differences, love in families, cooperation among neighbors and good will between nations. That is the world I want to see, and because I know children are watching, that is the example I try to be.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.