What My Parents Taught Me that Every Child in the Developing World Needs to Know
What I have learned from
Welton and Trudy Ward
Today as I drove to the airport with Anounou, I told him about lessons that I have learned from my parents. He was very excited with several of the concepts and shook my hand a couple of times to show his gratitude for me sharing them with him. At one point he held out his arm and showed me the goose bumps that were on his arm, because he was so excited with the concepts that I was sharing with him.
We were talking about development and I asked him why the United States was so successful while Mali was so poor. He answered human capital. Then he went on to explain that many people in Mali did not work hard to improve their circumstances. I agreed. His comments were similar to the comments my Ethiopian friend had shared with me. He said that they life was too easy so they did not have to work and consequently were mired in poverty.
This lead to a discussion of lessons that I have learned from my parents. By US standards, we were a poor family. (Compared to the developing world we were very well off). We always had plenty of nutritious food to eat but we seldom had fancy food. Often our clothes were purchased at second hand stores or were given to us by friends and family. Getting a new pair of jeans for school from the Sears catalog was an exciting experience. We had sufficient for or needs and some wants as well.
My parents worked hard to teach us and provide for us. My mother taught piano lessons all the time I remember. Almost all of the money went for family needs. I don’t remember my mom ever buying something extra just for her. Her guilty pleasure was to mix chocolate, butter, sugar, peanut butter and a few other ingredients into a tasty treat. My father worked hard on the farm and sold many different items to add to the family income. He often bought treats to snack on as he worked the fields but was very frugal with his money. He loved to relax by reading a Louis Lamour western or some other novel. Both of my parents read a lot and instilled in us a love of reading. They also shared their philosophies with us and welcomed discussion.
One of the key lessons that my parents taught me was that there was “no free lunch”. Someone had to pay for services and the government did not generate money, it consumed it. At school we could have very easily qualified for the free lunch program but my parents said no that we could pay for it ourselves or we could take a lunch to school. They explained that the lunch had to be paid for by someone. If it was not us then it came from someone else. Some would say “the government pays for it”. They would say the government does not generate money it takes it from our neighbors. If we get the free lunch we are telling our neighbors that they have to pay for it and we are using the government to extort that money from them. That may seem like a harsh statement but it is true. If I am not comfortable asking my neighbor for help I should not feel comfortable taking it from the government when I can provide fpr myself.
Farm subsidies were available to the farmers as I was growing up. I often heard my friends talk about how their fathers used their subsidy check to buy new equipment, a new truck, take the family on vacation, or some other desirable purchase. When I asked my father about the subsidy program he explained that he was farming the land not the government. He said that the money that the government had come from the citizens, us and our neighbors. Taking the subsidies was like taking money from our neighbors. He said that he felt that he should provide for himself and for his family and not expect others to do what he could do himself. He taught us that if we worked hard we could accomplish anything that we wanted to do. If we depended on others for our success then we would always be limited to what we could get from them.
My parents taught us to work for what we got and to appreciate what we had. This work ethic is not unique to our family but I find it lacking in many of the areas that I work and I fear that it is rapidly slipping away in the United States. While the developing world is trying to beg its way out of poverty, The United States citizens are ignorantly racing toward the main cause of poverty. I was taught that I should always give more than I should take. More and more people are grabbing for anything they can get. Consuming while not producing and complaining when they can’t get everything that they want.
My parents worked hard to provide a good stable environment for our family and incubator for learning. Their focus was to help us to become productive citizens in society. They were both involved with politics, my father more so than my mother. They had us help out in political campaigns and learn political philosophies so that we could add value to the communities where we lived.
My parents were very active in church. They taught us the gospel of Jesus Christ by lesson and by example. We always attended our meetings and my parents always served in various capacities. They were less concerned with where they served and more concerned with how they served. They expected us to do the same.
Even though my parents did not acquire a lot of wealth, the appreciation of their farm made their net worth fairly high. Their desire to have a cohesive family and a place where the family could gather lead them to work out a deal with my brother so that he could get the farm at a very low price on terms that he could live with. So the wealth that they had acquired was in essence given away so that the family farm could stay in the family. They could have had a nice comfortable retirement with the “niceties” of life. Instead they chose to serve as tour guides in Nauvoo and live a Spartan life. If success were measured by how much value you added to society compared to how much you took from society, they would be some of the most successful people in the world.
It is often said that you don’t know what you have until you lose it. In my case I didn’t realize what I had until I worked among people that did not have the same teachings that I received. I can see how critical it was to my success when I compare my life to those that have never been taught such fundamental principles for success.