My father loves his garden. I never got into gardening much. Neither did my brother. And this is a fact that, most likely, dismays or confuses dad from time to time. When I was a kid, my long list of chores often included working in the garden: tilling the ground, planting, watering, picking green beans and onions in the tall, sticky jungle in our backyard. My father likes to tell the story of one particular hot August day when I was 10. We were picking beans, the time dragging by slowly to an impatient kid, and I asked, “Can’t you buy these in the store?” I don’t remember his reply.
The following summer we had a surplus of hand picked garden goodies. Much to my horror, dad sent me selling veggies door to door in and around our neighborhood. I was a bit embarrassed but I got to keep the cash from each sale. I was fit for the job because I was a pro at sales. I often peddled goods from door to door when I was growing up. One summer I sold greeting cards. I often sold raffle tickets and candy bars for school fundraisers. Once, I even sold crudely made worms that I constructed from felt, cotton, string and little plastic googly eyes. So, I was a natural at selling broccoli and radishes to my neighbors, who no doubt dreaded seeing me show up on the opposite side of door.
My first job was door to door salesman at age 9 or 10. Mowing yards quickly followed. I also helped to paint my grandmother’s house on at least two occasions. And when my brother opened his bike shop when I was 14, I was there sweeping, taking out the trash and, occasionally, putting together a mountain bike. All of this was at the prodding and endless encouragement of my father. I was a kid and, at times, hated being pushed so hard. But now, I look back and I am thankful. I understand.
I believe in hard work. I believe in the sense of accomplishment that comes from seeing a project from inception to completion. I believe that difficult labor indeed builds strong character. I believe that I am a better person today because my father pushed me to be the best little vegetable salesman and bike mechanic on the block. I believe the lessons of twenty years ago still inform my decisions and actions today. But most of all, I believe in the power of strong parenting. Who know where I would be today if my father hadn’t stuck that hoe in my hand two decades ago and told me to suck it up and get to work.
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