Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paying it forward and lessons learned...

One hot summer back in junior high, our neighbor across the road, Mr. Inskeep, passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.  Mrs. Inskeep must have been in her sixties back then and asked if she could hire me to mow her lawn and take care of her yard work for her.  Now the opportunity to earn some cash so close to home was pretty appealing to me because aside from baling hay and straw, I also mowed some lawns in town to maintain cash flow for necessary expenses typical of any young man in his early teens such as a new bicycle, .22 cartridges, tools, watchin' Star Wars in the movie theater, and a brand new Buck 110 folding hunter knife.

When mom and dad heard of my new lawn-mowing customer, they were pretty quick to squash that source of income.  I was young and still learning that takin' care of neighbors, respect for elders, and all that noble stuff actually meant that you take care of mowing Mrs. Inskeep's yard and you don't accept any money from her.

For the next couple of years my brother and I mowed and cared for our yard and the one across the road.  In the winter we shoveled our walks and plowed off our driveway and those across the road.  At first, we might have been reminded to take care of the house across the road, but pretty soon we just did it out of habit and because Mrs. Inskeep baked some of the best cookies and pies around, I mean cookies and an occasional piece of pie wasn't exactly like gettin' paid cash... right?

One summer in high school, a "for sale" sign went up and shortly thereafter the house across the road sold.  Mrs. Inskeep moved away to be closer to family.  As they movers and folks were packing things up and loading the truck, we were asked over... and she insisted on giving us her husband's workbench and tools.  She wouldn't except "no" for an answer.  She was endlessly appreciative of all we had done for her.

The workbench was a masterful piece of craftsmanship and weighed a ton with a five-foot wide hardwood top that was two-feet deep and four inches thick!  There were all kinds of tools from years of man cave collecting... Craftsman and Mac wrenches and socket sets, saws, chisels, screwdrivers, hammers, and many others.

There were even some old Ford wrenches among the odds and ends which included bins of assorted bolts, screws, nuts, washers, and nails.  It makes you wonder if those folks who made those old Ford wrenches knew they'd still be around in someone's toolbox today.  These are some of the kinds of things that last forever... some the kinds of things I still have in my barn and garage today. 

We were taught early on about the values of the intangibles in life... and taking care of the neighbor's yard without compensation would have still been just fine if in the end all we received was a thank you and a wave goodbye.  My folks set an example for us, and we're trying to set an example for our daughter and the next generation.

The Golden Rule:
"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, 
do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
~Matthew 7:12

We're getting old enough to see some of it pay off, but also realize not all of it will.  This year we have a couple of former 4H Shooting Sports kids who have gone on to college, have also taken the courses to get 4H certified... and will be volunteering to help with the 4H Shooting Sports club this coming year... just another example of paying it forward and lessons learned...