The other day, while walking Jessie in the early morning, I started thinking about all the things I learned at the different points in my life. These are just a few…
EARLY CHILDHOOD – Looking back, I learned that I could walk more than a mile to elementary school (Hamilton Elementary) and it didn’t kill me. I also learned that chewing molten road tar during the summer heat didn’t taste at all like chewing gum. Finally, I learned that using my front brakes on my bike while going fast down a hill resulted in a tumble over the handle bars and a nasty road rash.
LATER CHILDHOOD – I learned to love playing baseball starting in Little League and going all the way through high school. I learned that my teachers knew more than I did and it was best to listen to them. Finally, I learned that brown-eyed girl in Mr. Gregory’s chemistry class was pretty neat. Little did I know she would become my wife some day.
COLLEGE – At the University of Tennessee, we started with a school population of about 11,000. When we graduated we learned that it had risen to over 21,000. That was due to student deferments during the early Vietnam War. I learned that you can have a lot of acquaintances, but you really only have a very few real friends. I learned I could draw editorial cartoons for the UT paper, the Beacon, and make a few extra bucks.
NAVY – I learned how important others could be in my being successful. I learned to listen to and learn from others who had far more experience than I and that included everyone from my Quartermast Chief all the way to my Captain who taught me what it means to be a leader. He also taught me never to assume for that makes an ass out of u and me. Think about it. Finally, I learned how important my family was as I missed them greatly during our times at sea. That’s why I didn’t make the Navy a career even though I loved going to sea.
CAREER – I spent 27 years working for Procter & Gamble. I learned it was one of the most ethical companies I have ever known. I learned how to do many different jobs from sales, to organizational development, to employee relations, to compensation. Finally, I learned that if you put good people into positions and give them a voice and a clear direction, they will take the reins and do everything in their power to succeed. My job was to select them, give them the vision and a voice, and then get out of their way.
FAMILY – Family is so important. My sons are now men whom I love and respect. I watch and learn from them. My wife, Betty, is the most important person in my life on this earth. She teaches me every day what courage, integrity and compassion are all about.
GOD AND CHURCH – I came to a personal relationship with Jesus at age 39. Even now, I continue to learn what it means to follow him as Lord of my life. I am blessed to go to a church and have a pastor that teaches from God’s word. I have learned so much over the past 3 1/2 years and grown in my love of and trust in God’s word.
OLD AGE – Given the average age that men in my family have died, I may have about 10 years left on this earth. That gives me a freedom to choose how I live my life, where I spend my time and energy. Now, in the latter stage of my life, I have learned how little I really know. A lot of the things I was certain of in my earlier life, I now wait to learn what they really mean. Fewer things have greater meaning now – my relationship with God, Betty, my sons and their families, my friends, Jessie my Golden Retriever. Even though I enjoy photography and having a good camera, material things have no meaning to me anymore. And after spraining my back on Friday I’ve learned that it’s true, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Years ago, I ran across a quote in a Reader’s Digest that made me stop and think. I carried in my wallet for a lot of years – “Contentment in life comes from deciding to stop the elevator, get off at that floor and begin to enjoy where you are and what you find.”
I’ve learned that great joy can come from small things – a blooming cactus, Jessie’s joy when I come home, a beautiful New Mexico sunset, when our granddaughters say, “I love you,” Betty’s smile.
There’s nothing else in this life that I desire.