Monday, May 11, 2009

Lesson #5: Don't Be Afraid to Try Things

When I was ten or eleven one of my older sisters came to live with us. She'd spent a lot of time in Mexico and had learned to cook authentic Mexican food. The first time she cooked for the family and I came to the table I asked, "What's this junk?" Probably not the best approach, but I'd always been a little picky with my food, meat in particular, and was not impressed with the smells wafting up from beneath my nose. It was kind of soupy, with vegetables and pork and there weren't any spoons. We were supposed to eat it with homemade corn tortillas we tore into triangles and used like spoons.

After being chastised for my rudeness, Mom enforced the "one bite" rule. I had to try it and if I couldn't choke it down I could have something else. I was determined I wasn't going to like it, but I gave it a chance and took my single bite. And another. And more and more until I was done and asking for seconds.

Mom put the "one bite" policy into practice in other areas of her life as well. It was a matter of you never know what you can do until you try. I can't begin to tell you how many walls we painted, how many times Mom fixed her own plumbing by calling people in the know or getting a book and figuring it out, or how often we tore down walls and built them up again. She laid her own carpet, tried to break my horse (and broke a collarbone in the process), wrote family history books, and improvised anything and everything that needed a fix.

At the age of seventy she took it upon herself to build a shed and a deck on the back of our house. When I offered to help her (because I love building stuff too), she turned me down. She wanted to do it herself and I have been very impressed by the quality of her work. Had she ever built a deck or a shed before? No. She just figured it out and did it.

I have always loved that quality in her. She was not only capable, but teachable, and took pride in the work she did. I love to go sit on my deck or stand in my yard and look at the wood and know she created something with her own hands. She wasn't afraid to try new things, and it's a quality I try very hard to incorporate into my own life. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to find ways to do whatever needs doing.

"There's always a way to learn about what needs doing. You've just got to be brave enough to try."

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