When I wrote my last blog. I referred to one of the values my father taught me – a work ethic. Since then I have been thinking of the other values he attempted to sow into my life; how good and powerful they are and how I have failed to implement them in my life.
Instead of learning from earlier generations, we have been making it up as we go for decades. Our immense egos lead us to believe that preceding generation have nothing to tell us.
My father's value system was both beautiful and functional. His values were like thick cream skimmed off the top of life; rich, full, and useful. One could almost sink one's teeth into them. His values were strong, solid. They worked. They were passed down through the preceding generations and developed through years of challenging work, thought, application, reconsideration and reapplication. He received them as a precious gift from his father and he gave them to me.
And not just for safekeeping, but to help me get the most out of life with the least amount of hassle. Several years ago my older brother and I compared notes and recollections and have recognized these as some of the values we received from our father:
- Work hard and don't expect something for nothing.
- Make work fun.
- Listen to people. Really listen.
- Keep practicing until excellence is natural.
- Be generous in helping others.
- Be a giver, not a taker.
- Set high goals and strive to attain them.
- Put God first, family second, and work third.
- Be dependable, a man of your word.
- Be prompt. Being late is rude.
- To have good friends you must be a good friend.
- Be fun to be around.
- Make sacrifices for your family and friends.
- Keep learning and thinking.
- Dare to dream big dreams. Have a vision.
- Stand up for what you believe to be right.
- Pray and trust God.
In sharing his values, my father gave me this magnificent chilled glass of thick rich cream. As he handed it to me, as he lived life in front of me, I could see the cream slosh up the sides of the tumbler, which dripped with rivulets of condensation, and coat the glass with its translucent richness. He urged me to drink deeply of its cool sweetness, knowing that the more of it I drank, the more I would have to give to my children when it came time to pass the cup. Values, like love, are unusual in that the more you use them, the more you have to share.
But catastrophe struck before it came time to share its rich goodness with my progeny. I was there the entire time, but I am still not sure exactly what happened. I guess it happened so slowly and over such an extended period of time that the catastrophe failed to fully register in my consciousness. All I know for sure is that when I handed the glass to my children, the cream no longer stuck to the sides. When I looked closer I realized that the cup no longer held rich, thick cream. It looked more like the skim milk I now have on my cereal in the mornings. They are much more watery than either whole milk or cream, skim milk most clearly shows itself for the "weak sister" it is when it is used as a creamer in coffee. If you want to see something really nasty, put skim milk in coffee.
The catastrophic change was unnoticed because it was not one grand accident where I tripped and spilled the values in a big mess on the floor. Instead, I splashed a little out here, dribbled a bit there, choked on a mouthful here and poured a tad down the drain there. In my attempt to keep the glass full, I added a dash of water here and there to keep up the appearance of holding a full glass. After all, who was going to notice a little water?
Well, it ends up that I am the one who notices. The children don't, because they have never seen the cream. The cultural assault on values crashing down on them from other sources makes for values more akin to sewage than cream. So, my watered-down value system may not look like much to me but it is quite distinct from the alternatives available to them. They don't know any better. But they are still the ultimate losers. Them and their children and their children's children. Oops! Maybe it doesn't do any good, but I think I will cry over spilled milk.
Copyright © 2018, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.