Some of the habits that help me in my daily life are those I’ve copied from the habits of people I have admired during my lifetime. I grew up during the great depression. It seemed that everyone in my family was forever scrambling to do the jobs that helped us eke out a living. Without the labor saving devices of today, my mother was always working in her care for the seven of us. She couldn’t take the time to sit and read to me, her youngest, but I have good memories of stories she told me while she was ironing, baking or accomplishing other household tasks. When I was older, I noticed how she kept a magazine or book handy so that if she was stirring pudding or doing some other “mindless” task, she could use her free hand to hold whatever she wanted to read. Her love of reading was apparent to me, lucky me! What a good example!
When I look into my Remembrance Album for the cards I want to send during an upcoming month, I think of the college room mate whom I saw organizing hers when we were enrolled together. Pencil-dated where the stamp will later be placed, my envelopes rest on a rack alongside the door to the garage where I exit each day. A constant reminder, not only to post but to think of her and of the one who gave me that useful slotted key rack. It serves me well.
An older colleague, with whom I once worked, was the best listener I have ever known. I think of her often because her friendship was an important influence in my life. She was my mentor. She’d achieved a talent for listening intently and non-judgmentally. When she had a conflicting opinion to express, she saved it until the end of the conversation and “tacked it on” as an afterthought, something else to consider. Although I try to follow that example, it is hard to be that kind of listener as it requires a great amount of self-forgetfulness.
In a funeral home two years ago, with my brother’s family who were receiving condolences from relatives, friends and neighbors, I was surprised to be greeted by a former next-door neighbor. When he had been a very young boy, I was still living in my parents’ home because my hometown is where I’d found my first teaching assignment. As he grew up I saw him rarely when visiting my parents from my northern home. I was very surprised when I later learned from my mother that he had achieved the status of National Merit Finalist and gone on to Indiana University and to an eastern city career in math. As a child he’d seemed alone with older parents whose limited resources made his future appear bleak. He was always their source of pride though. In conversation at the funeral home he told me that he had driven in for the sole purpose of talking to me as he had always wanted to thank me for having driven him to the library back then. He credited me with having opened doors for him to what became his self-education. I was amazed, as until her reminded me, I had totally forgotten having done this several times. The warm feeling given me that day helps me to remember to express appreciation for favors that come my way.
I must admit that I was a bit of a procrastinator until I married the man with whom I’ve shared my life. In the early days of our marrieage, I noticed how he always seemed to be planning ahead. Always ready a few minutes early for every engagement and quick to accomplish most tasks, I noted how well this habit served both of us. And, although at first it was a struggle, I managed to begin to emulate his ways.
I am so grateful for those people mentioned and for the many others who have helped shape my life in a number of positive ways. There IS value in learning from a good example.