Pay it Forward

Here in the US we will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. Many people will pause from the festivities, the family celebrations, the sports and the Black Friday sales to give thanks. Maybe they will offer a prayer, maybe a lingering thought of recognition to those who went before us and those around us who make it possible for us to live in relative peace. I have a suggestion – yes, it’s in the title. Pay it forward. Offer the small bits of help that will make others thankful.

When I share DIY stories here, I frequently get comments about how lucky The Editor is to have someone to do this work. Well, I’m not always sure she is lucky, some of this work can be disruptive, but I digress. What I do think about, and what I take very seriously is why I can do this work – I was taught by others.

When our father took on a project around our house, my brother and I were recruited for help. It was mandatory, but it wasn’t drudgery (although we may have felt like it was). My father would always explain why he was doing what he was doing. I remember having to chip bits of mortar off the block wall foundation of our house. Trust me, that job was every bit as miserable as it sounds. My dad gave me a chisel, a hammer and showed me what to look for. He explained that he wanted to paint the foundation and that those bits of mortar would interfere with a paint roller. He chipped a few chunks off to demonstrate where to put the chisel, how to hit, and, of course, to let the tool do the work. When it came time to paint, I helped him and he explained that task as well. He had me roll over one of the chips I had missed. I went back over that wall very carefully after that.

Dad did this with everything. Carpentry, woodworking, plumbing, electrical and for the love of everything holy, yardwork. I hate yardwork, but I know how to do it. On occasion, he would lend me out to help one of his friends, cousins, nephews, etc. who were tradesmen. His instructions were always the same, “keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.” He let me work with people he knew would share their knowledge with me.

Years later, I met a man who worked with sheet metal. He taught me a little about flashing a chimney, but only because I was helping him, and I was asking questions. He made it clear that he didn’t normally share his experience with others. He actually bragged about sending an apprentice to his truck to get something at a point where he had to do some overhead soldering. “It’s hard work. I have some tricks, but I don’t want him to know them. If he learns how to do it, they’ll use him on jobs instead of me to save money.” “They” being the contractors who hire workers for those jobs.

I’ve met other people who held what they knew very close. I worked with a man who refused to document a particular mathematical process – a process that was important to our company’s operation. It was his job and he didn’t want to lose it. He got angry and quit one day. He left without sharing that knowledge – perhaps out of spite, perhaps in the hopes of being brought back as a consultant. A fellow employee and I spent weeks reverse engineering that process by analyzing the scripts and spreadsheets he used and several years’ worth of data and results.

Now that I am retired, I am trying new things and trying to get better at things I’ve always enjoyed. I am still benefiting from some people who have gone before me. I appreciate their help more than I can express. If I can help others, I will try.

Note: Since this Thanksgiving is a US holiday, Thursday Doors will be open for business as usual.

76 comments

  1. Teachers come in various forms, and, if we’re lucky, we have many in life. You are so very right that those who have taught us have a place in our Thanksgivings. At the same time, it has to be said that a willing student has something to do with the outcome! I couldn’t help laughing as I read your account of you and your dad because it brought up a memory of all the times I asked my dad if I could help and he’d say, “Yes. Go tell your mother she wants you.” Beautiful shot of the leaves with ice! I don’t doubt Maddie has a good time crunching!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your dad’s comment is funny. Sometime, curious kids can seriously delay a project, but I’m glad I was welcome, even if to just stand and hold stuff. Now, when I’m making the third trio to the garage for yet another tool I didn’t think I’d need, my wife says, “you need an apprentice.”

      I hope you have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My dad was a great teacher too. He was patient and took the time to explain things thoroughly and in terms I could understand. My mother, on the other hand, just barked orders, but somehow even most of that sunk in. I tried hard to pass on my tidbits of knowledge to my girls, but without the barking!

    If we stop paying it forward, our civilization will just die.

    Photos today are outstanding. Maddie and the perfect leaf she found….two bunnies in the dark…..Smokey enjoying his “toll”…..Maddie on her deck…..beautiful frozen puddles…..and Old Glory in all her glory!
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • My dad wasn’t always patient. He expected us to remember what he had told us the previous week. But he would tell us again, after a snarky comment.

      As much as I complained to Maddie that she was early when she started barking for her walk, it was nice being out with the rising sun..

      I had to laugh when I read your comment about the fence. Whatever is growing on that fence, it’s new.

      Like

  3. Nice post, Dan, and one that a lot of us ‘retirees’ can relate to. I’m lucky that quilters and gardeners are a sharing bunch of folks, and I certainly appreciate that. I’m also very thankful that you’ve answered several emails when I’ve had WordPress questions. Sharing information is a wonderful thing. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Dan. Please give Maddie a pat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s raining here Judy, so Maddie is easy to pat. She’s laying 2/3 on the couch 1/3 on me. People who are willing to share the knowledge they have accumulated are special. I don’t know how you would really learn things like quilting, gardening and woodworking with out them. You can only get so much from a video.

      Happy Thanksgiving. I hope the week goes well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful Thanksgiving reflection, Dan. My dad was much like yours. My three brothers were always recruited and taught about everything related to farming — the mechanics, the rhythm of the seasons, the how-tos. It was demanding at times, but they learned and use those skills today. Thank you for all the ways your share your learned experience with us, and thank you for the beautiful photos that consistently brighten the day. Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Gwen. I’m not sure how else you could learn about farming. There must be thousands of nuances based on location, weather and what you’re trying to grow. We were more than a built in labor force, as long as we were willing to learn/

      Like

  5. Your post is full of the kind of the type of wisdom I often heard from my parents and my grandparents. I think when a person refuses to share their knowledge it says a lot about their own self confidence. Even the love of cooking often comes from spending time in the kitchen with parents or grandparents from a very young age.

    I love the transitional photos of the autumn leaves trapped in ice, and I chuckled when I saw your sunset over the Amazon.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Seriously, I wish someone would have shown me some of those same things, which sounds weird since I’m an apartment dweller. I always found This Old House fascinating, how they would repair and fix up every part of the house and end with something cool. Your father did you a great service by teaching you these things with patience so that you could one day have your workshop, teach Faith how to use power tools, make the Editor crazy and build a porch/stairs for Maddie to rest upon.

    Have a wonderful week and turkey day, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with Maddy, I love the leaves and ice together! I understand why people want to withhold information but it is selfish and counterproductive. I’m excited to pass on what I know to others because that is my legacy. It doesn’t matter if I get credit, I know I did it. I am the one that matters. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Neither of my parents were much into showing how things could be done; it was more trial by fire, but I always persevered. I’ll figure it out!
    Ice, leaves and Maddie is a beautiful photo. Maddie is right–the photo is better with her being in it.
    You know, you write it a lot–One flag, every American–and it stirs my soul every time. Thanks for saying that, Dan. Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like that caption, Lois. I know people are in and out of this blog, so I repeat it often so everyone will see it. I think it’s so important, especially as some people think the flag belongs to their cause only. My flag, too!

      Somehow, I always expect that you will persevere. I hope you have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We had a report-writing tool where the guy who designed the files that belonged to it (places to store things like source code and output listings) used a form of VSAM that was so esoteric that he was the only person who understood it. After a while he decided to hold it hostage and demand megabucks or he’d walk out. They figured out how to change his files to standard RRDS files and told him to take a hike. It made the application much more stable and easier to handle, and everybody was happier (except him…)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dan, I encountered people like “chimney guy.” Even when I would point out that I would not be qualified for their job, and didn’t even plan to stay in that same state, they were far from gracious. There is no spirit of mentoring. No doubt it was an aggravation for a teenager but your dad sounds like a wonderful parent, and you are proof.
    Thanks for the smile the photo caption, about Maddie and that ice crunching, gave me. It’s her version of bubble wrap! :) Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – it is like bubble wrap. That made me laugh, Teagan, thanks.

      Those people are everywhere and they are selfish and mean. Working with my dad wasn’t always what I wanted to do, but I learned so much working with him, I look back and realize how lucky I was.

      I hope you have a nice week.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan – excellent … my uncle was like that – and my father could have been – but for being ill. We all learnt a fair amount, and have a range of attributes from our forebears – equally some I’d love to have had, but they didn’t appear. You are fortunate – and realise that … and continue on with your father’s ideals.

    Love the wintry pics … Happy Thanksgiving … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My husband, being in IT, has lots of experience with people who don’t document things and then no one knows what’s already been done. It’s not necessarily done to hoard knowledge but the outcome is the same. I know at this time of year another way people pay it forward is to pay for the meal or groceries of the person behind them in the line or drive through…although maybe it should be called pay-it-backwards. :-) All good ideas. If you have a cookie exchange, have everyone make an extra dozen and donate them to shut-ins or a shelter or the like. Invite a person who doesn’t have family nearby over for Thanksgiving or Christmas or a meal.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I once worked on a programmer’s guide for a document processing system that had taken over ten years to develop and had been worked on by dozens of programmers. The programmers I contacted told me they didn’t want to work with me because if the customer knew how kludgy the code was, the company would be sued! A different reason for not sharing knowledge! Have a great holiday Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Believe it or not, Dan, I knew women in the medical field who purposely withheld and even misinformed people they were supposed to be training in fear of the new person being better at the job. My philosophy as a trainer and manager was always, ‘Anything I can do you can learn. The better we all are at our jobs, the better care we offer to our patients. Seems simple enough. If only humans didn’t feed their fears so much. 😕Your posts may not always be what I ned to know in the moment but I value your expertise and appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge with us. .

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I loved learning about your dad and the many skills he taught you over the years. I have a friend who hires out all his work, even for things that he could easily do himself. When I asked him about it, he said that, when he was growing up, his dad constantly criticized everything he did and pointed out how inept he was. Now as an adult, he both lacks the self confidence and the interest in trying anything on his own. What a sad and long-lasting legacy that dad left his child.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very sad, Janis. My father’s mother owned a small apartment building. We fixed everything in those units. These days, even simple repairs can be very expensive, if you can find someone to do the work.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Those are wonderful lessons you learned from your Dad, and others along the way. It’s wonderful that you’re giving back.

    I loved the long shadows, that backlit leaf, and the tree branches reflected in the puddle.

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are those who hoard knowledge, fearful of competition, and then there are those who are always eager to learn more, to perfect their skills, and to teach the next generation so that they, themselves, can move upward and on – knowing that they’ll leave the world in good hands.

      Teachers are a special breed of humans, and we ought to appreciate them more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right. You could STEAL your teacher’s clients or customers. That’s underhanded. But I think a good teacher WANTS their students to outshine them – to be a credit to their teaching skills, regardless of whether that’s academic or vocational skills. A student who credits their teacher is someone to be proud of, but a student who forgets their teachers and claims all the credit for themselves – not so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I hope that I am a person who helps others learn to be better at whatever they’re doing. I figure teaching others to shine is a good reflection on me. I’m a bit naive I suppose, but so be it. We all do what we can in the ways that makes sense to us.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I have always enjoyed the stories you tell of your father. This one is particularly special, as it has a domino effect: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. He was a great teacher in many, many ways. Happy Thanksgiving, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

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