My friend and I were talking recently about the things we learned throughout the course of a childhood that seemed so hum-drum at the time.
We had no idea each day was like on-the-job training for life.
She recalled the day her grandfather said he needed her to go ask to borrow a shovel from the neighbor.
Of course she didn’t want to, and said so. Grandpa insisted.
“Be sure you say please and thank you, and let him know I will get it right back to him.”
So, Cindy dragged herself away from her pony named Frisco Pete and the kingdom of all things horses, and went to visit Tom.
Tom was perfectly happy to loan his good neighbor a shovel, even though Cindy felt pretty dang sure her grandfather had enough shovels he certainly couldn’t be in need of this particular one.
Later in the day, Cindy’s grandpa said, “OK, I’m done with Tom’s shovel. I need you to take it back to him.”
Cindy stopped what she was so terribly busy doing long enough to say, “Wait a minute, Grandpa. That’s not Tom’s shovel.”
Though Grandpa insisted that it was, Cindy felt sure he was the most mixed up man she knew at that moment.
“No, Grandpa. Tom’s shovel was sort of that same size and everything, but it was really old. Beat up. Um, you know, dirty.”
This particular shovel she was being asked to return was so shiny it could have been used as a mirror, for crying out loud.
Grandpa Sigler stopped what he was doing long enough to teach his granddaughter a life lesson.
“Cindy, any time you borrow anything from anybody, you take it back in better shape than it was when you asked to use it.”
Cindy stopped arguing, though she might have rolled her eyes at the whole idea of a shiny shovel really mattering at that moment.
But, the lesson sure as heck stayed with her all these years.
As she picked up the shovel to head for Tom’s garage, what do you want to bet Grandpa added, “And be sure you tell Tom we said thank you.”
Somewhere along the line, the people who made up the cast and crew of our lives took the time to make sure we were learning the good graces that make us bearable — and better — human beings.
You can bet your last dollar that Cindy’s grandfather could have done the asking, the borrowing, the returning and the thanking all by himself.
It sure would have been easier than arguing the point with an extremely busy 10-year-old rodeo rider, don’t you think?
There was a lesson Cindy’s grandfather felt needed to be taught, and that was the day to do it.
As a result, not only is Cindy an exceptionally good friend, neighbor, and mentor to many young people, but over the years she has been able to strike up a conversation with anyone of any age and feel comfortable doing it.
This was at least part of what her grandfather was helping her develop.
My dad once encouraged me to take part in a school speaking contest, after hearing me tell one of my sisters I was kind of scared to get up in front of everybody.
“You can do it, and you can do it better than anybody I know,” he told me with great confidence.
I wrote my speech, delivered it in the same gymnasium where my dad once played high school basketball, and I won the annual citizenship contest that day.
Later he told me he was so proud of me for not giving in to that hesitation that can hold us back in life.
“I want you to find a way to conquer that feeling. I don’t want you to be so shy that it holds you back.”
It wasn’t until later in life that Dad told me his own shyness was so painful at times he could not find a way to rise above it, and he was so proud each time he saw one of his children conquer what he could not.
I have reminded myself of this when I think that I am too busy to take a moment to share a lesson, no matter how small, no matter the age of the child.
Someone took the time for us, and we are better for it.
Manners and graciousness, often taught on the porches, in the backyards, the paddocks and the barn floors, stay with us, thanks to some busy person in our lives finding a moment.
Now it’s our turn to be the ones who find it, share it, give away a gift we didn’t even know we were receiving, given with a good heart all those years ago.