I was raised during the Depression by a widowed mother with six children too young to work.
Things were tough financially. Each one of us did what we could to make our contribution.
Five milk cows, some fruit trees and a large garden provided most of our food. My brothers and I all got part-time jobs in a grocery store. My sisters worked in small department stores.
One of my responsibilities each morning was to take the cows out and stake them in good grass.
At lunchtime, I would move them to another spot where there was more good grass. One day, I was eager to get back to school and play a little softball before the lunch break ended. In my hurry, I improperly staked one of the cows. She got loose and invaded a nearby garden.
That afternoon, when I returned for the cow, I was confronted by a woman who was upset because of what our cow had done to her garden. I apologized profusely, promised to be more careful in the future and headed home. When Mom asked what had taken me so long, I told her what had happened. I recounted my apology, and my mother said to me, "Son, to apologize is one thing, but to pay for what you did is more important." We returned to the woman to make restitution. She estimated that the cow had eaten about eight bunches of turnip greens, valued at 5 cents a bunch, for a total of 40 cents. My mother paid her the 40 cents.
That doesn't sound like much money today, but in my grocery store job I earned 5 cents an hour, so 40 cents represented eight hours of work. After that experience, when I staked the cows, they were well-staked. I believe that's one of the most important lessons I ever learned.
Because a parent's goal is to work himself out of a job, responsibility must be taught throughout childhood. Think about it, and I'll see you at the top!
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