Last week Patricia and I were cleaning out our closet, and we ran across a box that contained some odds and ends. A ragged blue folder entitled “Shorty’s Tales” lay just under the lid across the assortment of doodads in the box. Shorty was one of my dad’s nicknames; the full version went like this: Bill William Shorty Carnie Carnelious Currie. My sister-in-law had put this collection of stories together one day just before Dad had died. She made a copy for each of us. It reminded me of how Dad used his stories to entertain us and sometimes to make a point. He was an example of someone who knew how to seize a teachable moment.
Shorty (Dad) loved to teach practical things. He knew how to do so many things and he loved to pass them on to us. He insisted on good personal hygiene; he taught us to brush our teeth with a homemade baking soda paste. Once when we were hunting, we came across a black gum tree. He stopped, broke off a small twig, and feathered the end of it as I watched. Then he took it and brushed his teeth with it. He laughed, broke another twig and handed it to me. There we stood in the middle of the woods brushing our teeth with black gum twigs; and I was thinking that my dad was a little weird. The funny thing is that I don’t remember whether or not we bagged a trophy that day, but I remember brushing my teeth with a black gum twig. He simply saw the black gum tree and seized the opportunity to teach me something.
Shorty only had an eighth grade education, but he loved to teach. He was always teaching us some little something. He taught us to whittle, to yodel, to plant a garden, to dig post holes, and more. And almost always in the middle of our activities, he would tell a story. Sometimes it would entertain, and we would laugh out loud. Of course, he laughed the loudest. At other times his stories had a point; and before we knew it, he had taught us something important. He didn’t have a twenty-year plan; but whenever the opportunity presented itself, he was intentional about teaching us something about living well.
We visited one of my older cousins James one day, and I noticed that his horse Major had only one eye. When I asked about it, James laughed and said that he hit it with a 2 x 4. My dad didn’t laugh. On the way home, he took the opportunity to instruct. He gave me the full story. Sometimes Major was stubborn, and many times James was hot-tempered. It wasn’t a good mix. When Major would not pull the plow one day, James picked up the nearest thing he could find and hit Major across the head, intending to kill him. Instead, he just knocked his eye out. Later he was sorry, but the damage had been done. Dad pulled two lessons out of that episode: 1) self-control and 2) kindness to animals. And he seasoned his comments that day with a good dose of his own emotion, a righteous anger. I got the point.
In the fast pace of this new millennium, perhaps we need to be reminded to slow down a little and take the time to pass on some lessons and stories to our own children.
Seize the teachable moment
Season your “life lessons” with your own genuine emotion