Monday, January 12, 2009

A Living Or A Life?

I think it's amazing how much choice we have.

My mechanic dad worked very hard while I was growing up. It affected how much time we had together. I was finishing high school when he began to ponder it.

Don't misread me. I always think of him as the best man I have known. On the other hand, he had a totally different relationship with my brother who is 8 years younger than me. Dad decided by then that a life took precedence.

After working for a car dealership for 20 years, a series of circumstances left my dad with a decision. After much investigation and no small amount of prayer, he decided to start his own garage.

I remember how he spent the first year with an ad in the Yellow Pages. He had so much business coming in by word of mouth that he didn't really need it so he cancelled. The business kept growing.

A couple of years later, he was so busy that I asked one day why he didn't hire more mechanics to help him. His answer? "Son, a big part of my life was managing other people. I did it enough to know that I'm much happier staying small and managing myself."

His values reflected his words. I can remember how he would stop in the middle of a job and run into town (2 1/2 miles) to get parts for the car. He always took time to talk with the people behind the parts counter. He was their friend. They confided in him because they respected him and they knew he cared.

When a customer came for work to be done, dad would take the time to listen to what was happening in that person's car AND that person's life. Sometimes people would linger just to talk.

Frequently, people drove in from ranch country many miles away. Dad would start work on their car with them waiting. If lunchtime arrived, he would say, "Come on in the house and let's have something to eat."
My mom always cooked extra and was never really surprised. One time she counted and had something like 30 unexpected lunch guests in a month.

Each of those actions reflected my dad's choice about how to live his life. What choices do you need to make about how to lives yours?

4 comments:

Rachel Cotterill said...

Kudos to your dad for knowing what made him happiest & sticking to it. 'Work-life balance' is a bit of a buzz word these days but it's not a new concept - and, as your post proves, not just for women trying to decide whether to have children, a high-flying career... or a very busy life with both combined.

My big choice is that I would rather work part-time for longer, and enjoy a 'part-time retirement' throughout my entire life, rather than working all the hours God sends in order to retire earlier. This will kick in once I've finished my PhD but I already know it will be the right balance for me.

What about you, Sam? You've given us an excellent example in your dad, but (in the spirit of yesterday's post) how about a few words of yourself?

Dina said...

A little over a year ago, I left a high-pressured job that had become all-consuming. Prayer, my daughter - who was one at the time - and a conversation with my dad several days before he died were catalysts for the decision. I now work part-time from home as a freelance writer and at a restaurant a few nights a week. My life isn't less busy, but reflects a much healthier balance. I LOVE the time I have with my daughter and it has been really good for my relationship with my husband. I'm a much more relaxed person, as long as I don't get too caught up in my daily list - ha ha. :)

Liz said...

Your story today reminds me of our family mechanic. Similar situation. Al started as a single man operation. He made a few different choices and did hire a few other mechanics. But they were good men who lived the same philosophy as Al. My parents ended up moving to the other side of town... but spent years continuing to drive the 30+ miles to Al's garage for routine maintenance as well as major repairs.

As he grew older, Al eventually started making some different choices. He had been partnering with a gas station to house his business. The private station sold out to a corporation. He faced a choice- make some changes to his business or shut down. He made the changes so he could stay open and the business changed significantly. The feel was gone. There was now corporate pressure for goals and numbers. He still had ownership... but his lease depended on his measured success.

He ended up handing the business over to his son. My parents stopped making the long trip to the garage.

Similar story, different choices, different results.

For myself... my struggle over the past few years has been about my children. I am constantly debating and guilting and questioning the stay at home vs work full time issue. I would go through phases of trying to work out every possible situation where I could stay home full time. But then a situation would pop up where my income became what kept us safe. So instead of going through the what ifs and questioning everything, I am putting my trust in God. Should the time come when I need to be home, the opportunity will be there for me. If I spend all of my time fretting about it, I won't hear it when it arrives. And if our circumstances continue on a path where my income and my benefits and my insurance are needed, then I put my faith in God to keep me there. I have to stay in this moment and turn over my worries and doubts.

Couple of quotes that I am reminded of...

"You did the best you could. And when you knew better, you did better." Maya Angelou

"It is better to regret something you've done than something you haven't." (I don't know the source for that one)

Sam said...

Each of the above comments are among the best I have ever received on my blog. Thank you all for your humility and willingness to take the time to share some of your stories.

Rachel, you have been a particular blessing today by asking me a question back. I love it (now) when people ask me what is going on in my life.

I will ask you to be patient, though. And read tomorrow.