I was at the grocery store the other day and ran into a mom whom I had not yet met. I know her daughters and had corresponded via email, but had not yet met her in person. I introduced myself and we exchanged some nice pleasantries about her daughters who are just a joy to be around. As we were talking, she walked away. No “good-bye,” no “it was nice to finally meet you,” no “I hope you have a nice day.” I didn’t expect much, I am a pretty laid back person when it comes to some things, but I thought a “good-bye” was in order. I said good-bye to her daughters, and purchased the few things I needed and left feeling a bit saddened by this encounter.
This encounter forced me to look at how I interact with others. I realized that I can get into a rush to accomplish the tasks before me and may forget my manners. Unfortunately, this happens all too often with those I care about most: my husband and my children. They suffer the brunt of my rudeness and inconsiderateness.
So this is a reminder to all of us what we already know. Sometimes, though, we need a little prod to help us be considerate of others and show them a bit of respect. When you meet someone for the first time proper introductions need to be made. (I will cover this in another post at a later time.) If you see someone you know from across the store, wave and acknowledge that you saw each other. If time permits, by all means make an effort to say hello in person and even chat for a few minutes. When you must be dashing off say something pleasant like, “It was so nice to bump into you today, I hope you have a nice rest of your day.” I have seen quite a few people when I have been out shopping, and when I make the effort to talk with them, I feel as if I am intruding on their shopping time. So a warm greeting is so welcome and can change a person’s day. If you are familiar enough with that person, give them a hug hello or a hug good-bye. These little pleasantries go for any meeting with someone whether in their home, at church, or meeting at a restaurant for dinner. A warm greeting and a sincere good-bye go a long way and say so much about you as a person.
We learned to sew on buttons the other night. The most challenging part wasn’t actually the sewing of the button, but rather it was the knot at the end of the thread that caused each of my darling girls some difficulty. As we were learning this seeming easy skill (I thought it was pretty easy), I realized how important practice is even for little things like knotting a piece of thread. I have been cross stitching for as long as I can remember and making a knot seems too easy when you cross stitch. Those knots always show up in the wrong places on the thread, so needless to say I didn’t think this “easy” task of sewing a button would be so difficult.
First, the girls had to thread the needle then knot the thread. Once this difficulty was done we discussed the importance of placing the button in the right place, how to sew on a button if it has two holes or four. A four-holed button gets a nice crisscross pattern, and a two-holed button gets an easy back-and-forth pattern. Once the button was sewn on, we learned to tie another knot which was so much easier than the first and presto our button was done.
So now if you need a button sewn on or a toilet plunged…you know who to call.
According to Webster priorities means “Precedence established by order of urgency or importance.” There is a saying that is popular today… “The tyranny of the urgent.” (Charles E. Hummel). I understand this saying and live it out every day. The urgent need for clean clothes, food to eat, school work help, and the list could go on. These are all important and very urgent requests. Have you ever heard a teenager ask for food? They sound as if they are on the brink of starvation! I even get texts throughout the day when I am only a few feet away doing school work with a sibling. “I am hungry!!!”
Yes, urgency and priorities seem to go hand-in-hand, but are we setting the right priorities despite the pressing urgency? My priorities today are different than they were when my children were young. Yes, food and clothes were important back then, but now the priorities shift from providing the fish to teaching them how to fish. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese Proverb)
What are the overall priorities that need to be firmly established in a 12, 14, and 16 year old? In our house these are the main priorities:
1) Daily Bible Reading and Prayer. It is about loving God, not about fulfilling an obligation. It is about relationship, not religion.
2) Always do your best, no matter how little or how grand, nothing less than your best.
3) Daily, moment-by-moment live out the Golden rule, no matter who you are with, even your sister.
4) College, college, college-what are you doing at this moment to prepare yourself for college? In this house, college is a must.
5) Before play, comes work. Is all your work done? Work can be play, but are you getting the work done?
6) Have you hugged your parents and sisters today?
Each of my children has a list of things that must be done before they officially can begin their “free time.” These are Mom directed priorities, and as children/teenagers these are important so they know what their priorities should be. However, as they continue to grow up and gain independence they develop their own priorities that are molded and shaped through the direction of their parents. Just as I have seen urgent things die out in the importance realm, so they will see this happen too. This is a great time to teach the importance of realistic expectations and short tem goals.
It cannot all be taught, as much as we would like it to be. It cannot all be modeled, as much as we would like to be the perfect example. But proper priorities teach discipline and focus and with these great traits plus a few others, our children will accomplish great things, even if it is “only” what is important vs. what is urgent.
Since we are a few weeks past Christmas, this is a good reminder for all to make sure they sent thank-you notes for the Christmas presents they received. Sending a handwritten note seems to be a dying art these days, with the latest technology for keeping in touch with others always advancing. Yet, nothing shows your appreciation for a gift quite the same as a handwritten thank-you note.
Here are some basic reminders of what should be included in a thank-you note. First, a thank-you note should be sent out within two weeks of receiving a gift. If you receive a gift that was shipped to you the courteous thing to do is let the person who shipped the gift know you received it via a phone call, text, email, etc. This should then be followed up with a handwritten thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the gift, what you like about the gift or how you intend to use it, and how thoughtful the person was for thinking of you. If the gift is money or a gift card then include for what they will be used. The giver will enjoy knowing what their money went towards and if you see this person after you have purchased your item show the item off.
It is nice to also write a thank-you note for other areas of kindness someone has shown to you whether it is dinner at their house, an unexpected phone call, or assistance with something you couldn’t have done by yourself. There are certain people that have a gift of writing thank-you notes that warms your heart. The only way to send these types of notes is to practice and to realize how a nice thank-you note makes you feel and what it is about that nice note that touched your heart. Then include those things in your note. Writing notes is an art, and any art takes time, practice, and patience, so do not grow “weary in well-doing.”
This popular line from a play at camp (that has been around since I was a camper) says what the next item is to check off my bucket list. Of course, this one has to happen rather spontaneously…We have this toilet that is just difficult to get along with. You know the kind, it needs to have double and triple flushes just for a few pieces of toilet paper. This toilet has caused us so much grief since we have moved in; I had to buy a new plunger. I have never heard of anyone wearing out their plunger. We did! That day I bought my new plunger was a lonely one as I walked through the store with my children trying to pretend they didn’t know me.
So we had the opportunity to plunge this special toilet a few days ago. So after we traipsed downstairs to get the plunger that hides on its own set of paper towels, we learned how disgusting the plunger was and how it needs to be by itself. No toilet water is permitted to drop to the floor so along with carrying the plunger goes carrying a nice few layers of paper towels to absorb the water. (Maybe I will change this to a bucket. That seems more sanitary). Once the cleanliness was covered, it was time for the nitty gritty of plunging. There has to be some water in the bowl to use as a lubricant, but not so much that it splashes all over and there is a dissemination of germs. Each of my sweet daughters had the opportunity to plunge the toilet. It was a very enjoyable lesson, and one that we can now check off. Yes, the toilet is freely flowing again, and we are ready for our next plugged toilet, or else we will be more careful about how much paper we use. Sometimes, lessons learned the hard way are learned the best way. “Plunge it, flush it, look out below.”
It seems that hand-in-hand with picking up after yourself is keeping your room neat. Why is this task so difficult for some and so easy for others? Maybe it is related to priorities – which implies that it is not as important for some as it is for others. I can completely understand this. For me, neatness is not as important as cleanliness. I can usually tell you what pile to find something, even though it looks like a mess. The messiness may not matter to some, but to others it matters a great deal. When this messiness affects someone else than you have a problem, a relational problem.
I have a very neat daughter, and two daughters that are not quite as neat. They do try to be neat, but other things get in the way. What we must do is prioritize. Again, picking up after yourself applies to keeping your room neat. When you take off your shoes, put them in the closet. After reading a book or doing schoolwork, put the book back in its proper place. Put your dirty clothes in the basket, put your clean clothes away, or hang up clothes that need hung up. Seems easy enough to follow these simple directives, but the practice is so much more difficult.
The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to apply somewhat here, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” When you learn good habits young they are “thoughtless” actions as you age. As ice skaters, two of my daughters have learned various patterns that progress with difficulty the greater their ability. The problem is that the patterns are specific that they must do in order to pass tests to move on to the next level. If they learn the wrong pattern and practice it wrong, then they must relearn the right pattern. It is a lot easier to learn the pattern the right way and practice it the right way than to relearn it.
So picking up after yourself and having a neat room are important life skills that are easier learned and then done “thoughtlessly” later in life, than to relearn because your roommate is always frustrated with your mess. Lay down a good pattern now, and you will reap rewards later that you never even realized.
Around our house a frequent exchange of words goes something like this…
“Whose is this?”
“Come and take care of your stuff or I will throw it away.”
Does this exchange happen at your house? Anything from socks (almost always socks are a part of every equation) to books to balls to papers. You name it, “it” has been laying around our house when it very easily could have been put in its proper place. One of my daughters notoriously kicks her shoes off and shoves them under her bed. If she would turn to the left instead of to the right she could shove them in the closet. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this, but maybe she has a psychological hang-up with turning left.
God even wrote about this “issue” in I Corinthians 14:50 “let all things be done decently and in order.” So if God had it written down in His Word, then it must be fairly important. We can even see the order of things in the 7 days of creation. Once the sin of Adam and Eve took place, the order of things changed and chaos become easier than order. It may be easier to kick off your shoes, without opening the closet door and putting them in the right place, and it may be more convenient to take off your socks and leave them where they fall, but what if we all did that?
The need for this directive of picking up after yourself goes beyond the need for order and reaches into the respect for others. When our things are left laying aound, it shows a lack of care for others who may trip over your shoes in the middle of the floor. So the solution here is simple and rather straightforward, put things in their place when you are finished with them and if you don’t have a place for them find it a home and put it there. You will be so glad you did, because then when you need something you know exactly where it is.
We will spend a few days working on this diligently, and then I will write about another thing to accomplish from my “bucket list” for my girls. Just because the three days is over, though, does not mean that the old habits can creep back, but rather once we have gone over a habit we are now responsible to maintain that habit.