A LESSON FROM MY FATHER

A LESSON FROM MY FATHER

From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

A Lesson from My Father

You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

Winston Churchill

We come by business naturally in our family. Each of the seven children in our family worked in our father’s store, “Our Own Hardware-Furniture Store,” in Mott, North Dakota, a small town on the prairies. We started working by doing odd jobs like dusting, arranging shelves and wrapping, and later graduated to serving customers. As we worked and watched, we learned that work was about more than survival and making a sale.

One lesson stands out in my mind. It was shortly before Christmas. I was in the eighth grade and was working evenings, straightening the toy section. A little boy, five or six years old, came in. He was wearing a brown tattered coat with dirty worn cuffs. His hair was straggly, except for a cowlick that stood straight up from the crown of his head. His shoes were scuffed and his one shoelace was torn. The little boy looked poor to me—too poor to afford to buy anything. He looked around the toy section, picked up this item and that, and carefully put them back in their place.

Dad came down the stairs and walked over to the boy. His steel blue eyes smiled and the dimple in his cheek stood out as he asked the boy what he could do for him. The boy said he was looking for a Christmas present to buy his brother. I was impressed that Dad treated him with the same respect as any adult. Dad told him to take his time and look around. He did.

After about 20 minutes, the little boy carefully picked up a toy plane, walked up to my dad and said, “How much for this, Mister?”

“How much you got?” Dad asked.

The little boy held out his hand and opened it. His hand was creased with wet lines of dirt from clutching his money. In his hand lay two dimes, a nickel and two pennies— 27 cents. The price on the toy plane he’d picked out was $3.98.

“That’ll just about do it,” Dad said as he closed the sale. Dad’s reply still rings in my ears. I thought about what I’d seen as I wrapped the present. When the little boy walked out of the store, I didn’t notice the dirty, worn coat, the straggly hair, or the single torn shoelace. What I saw was a radiant child with a treasure.

LaVonn Steiner

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