On this Veteran’s Day, the first after losing my father, I’ve been struggling with coming up with an adequate way to honor his memory.
I’ve been afraid of forgetting him but more than that, I’ve been afraid of his story ending with me.
Then it came to me: I interviewed my dad more in depth than I ever had while writing my upcoming book, Raising Uncommon Kids. And while the book does not come out until January of next year. I wanted to share this excerpt with you to not only let you know a little more about the man he was, but how it affected the woman I am and how it can even have an impact on who your own kids become.
Thank you for allowing me to share this piece of him with all of you:
My dad was born in the United States, but his mother was born in Kiev (Ukraine) in the late 1800s and his dad was born in what’s now considered Poland (though border shifts considered it to be part of Hungary at one point in history). A first-generation American, my father was born during the height of the Great Depression in Chicago and fought in World War II.
To imagine such an upbringing wouldn’t affect a child would be naive. Honestly, I don’t stand a chance of instilling in my kids the kind of gratitude and appreciation that, for my parents, came naturally from growing up in that era.
Today, we give kids “jobs” to do around the house in an effort to make them appreciate all that’s been given to them. In my father’s youth, he had to work outside the home as a young boy to help his family make ends meet. In fact, he recalls there wasn’t one day from the time he was eight years old that he didn’t work. When he was just twelve years old, he ran a newspaper stand on a corner two blocks from his home in the heart of Chicago.
At thirteen, he’d ride his bike about four miles from his house to a barbecue place, where he served curbside. By sixteen, he went to work at the Stevens Hotel (taken over by the Air Force in WWII) as a soda jerk for the airmen who were housed in their 3,300 rooms. Not long after that, he became the chief typist for the clerk engineer. He left school at 3:00 p.m. each day and worked from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. After getting out of the service in 1946 at the age of twenty, he went to college for two years and then immediately into law school for three years—all of which was paid for by the GI Bill.
Take Nothing for Granted
It’s not to say that young people don’t ever work for what they have today, but motivation and consequences are glaringly different from the past century. In her article “Volunteering: Service Brings Gratitude, Happiness, Appreciation, Love,” Stephanie Hamlow further describes this dangerous trend in our youth:
It is important that people start volunteering at a young age. There has been a growing sense of entitlement in our society. I have witnessed teens and young adults proclaim their worthiness and expectations of having the best of everything without having to earn it. I have watched parents give their children items and privileges with limited expectations of “good behavior” or “good grades.”
Though I stopped living with my father at the age of seven, the impact of his upbringing continued to be passed on to me whenever we spoke or saw each other: nothing was taken for granted, the next meal was never assumed, education was a gift, and the work ethic was unparalleled.
Children in his era recognized that their parents made supreme sacrifices for a chance to give their children a better life, often leaving their home country and extended family behind. So they worked alongside each other accordingly.
Am I suggesting we return to such times? No, but I am suggesting that we must learn from them. I could insert a bevy of quotes on studying history here, from along the lines of “We must study history or we’re doomed to repeat it” to one of my favorites from the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.” And while both sentiments may be true, none will guide us as accurately or poignantly as the Word of God when trying to find the right balance of gratitude and discipline in our families.
Psalm 50:14–15 reminds us where we need to start with any type of service and sacrifice:
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
When we feel as though we have nothing to give, we can always offer up our gratitude. In fact, thankfulness is at the root of raising uncommon kids. “Thank offerings” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word todah, which comes from yadah, meaning “to boast and praise.” More specifically, this term denotes offering praise to God as a sacrifice.
Before we can ever expect our kids to help others, they first need to exhibit gratitude for what they have.
And I’m not just talking about material things.
The life God has blessed us with and called us to alone is reason for offering up thanks to God. By acting as our children’s tour guide through life, helping to point out the many miracles that pass in front of us each day, we begin to demonstrate the power of gratitude.
The Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkeley compiled recent research on gratitude in our kids and discuss it on their website:
Results suggest that gratitude not only helps people form, maintain, and strengthen supportive relationships, but it also helps people feel connected to a caring community.
Evidence from our own research suggests that grateful young adolescents (ages 11–13), compared to their less grateful counterparts, are happier and more optimistic, have better social support, are more satisfied with their school, family, community, friends, and themselves, and give more emotional support to others. We’ve also found that grateful teens (ages 14–19) are more satisfied with their lives, use their strengths to better their community, are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, have higher grades, and are less envious, depressed, and materialistic.
Of course, while an attitude of gratitude can start within our own homes and hearts, we must also begin to introduce our children to the role having a thankful heart plays in making visible change in their world around them.
While our parents’ generation may have been motivated to work and serve out of necessity, our children need to be inspired in different ways.
The best thing we can do is meet our kids where they are and start there…
The above was taken from my book, Raising Uncommon Kids. Copyright © 2016 by Baker Publishing. This material may not be reproduced in any fashion. Thank you for helping me honor my father through it. The book may be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ChristianBook Distributors.