What I Learned From My Parents
I learned to reach out. My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them. We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.
Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.
Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.
My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. --Henry David Thoreau
My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone -- never talking down to people.
He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”
I learned to create art.
My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.
My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls.
To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.
I learned to seek God.
They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography.
Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.
These are my parents, Tom and Caroline, with me, on my wedding day 06/23/1990. My mom made my wedding dress by combining three different patterns, according to the way I wanted my dress to look. (She made her own dress, too!) And, of course….my dad paid for the whole thing.