“I’ll give you twenty-five cents but if you want fifty cents, you’ll need to find a way to earn it.” This was my dad’s reply to my request for money to purchase a balsawood plane with a rubber band when I was eight years old. The twirling of the propeller that twisted the rubber band mesmerized me. I loved how it flew out of sight when the band was released.
My dad, who lived below the poverty line all the years of his childhood, believed that money should be earned.
Immediately, I began crying as I told him of other parents who gave their children fifty cents. They were not required to earn it.
Dad again gave me instructions that I considered as frustrating as he found my tears exasperating.
“With the energy you are using to produce those tears, find something productive to do. Challenge yourself.”
Feeling angry and unloved, I stomped into the backyard.
The sun was sliding down behind the large Elm tree, casting a long shadow across the yard. It seemed as if a path was created by the shadow of the tree, inviting me to come and climb its branches. Within minutes, I had shimmied up the trunk of the tree and was pulling on its branches making my way to the top.
As suppertime grew closer the neighborhood grew quiet. Gently, the top branches of the tree rocked me back and forth as I considered how climbing the tree seemed to have conquered my fear of heights. About the same time, I heard my dad in the back yard calling my name to come in for supper. Smiling, I stayed quiet and watched dad return to the house.
Within a few minutes dad came to the yard again, this time his voice was more urgent as he called my name.
Deciding I had been in the tree long enough, I had started to descend. Before I could move, cold sweat began to bead on my forehead and waves of nausea pounded my belly as I looked at the ground below.
“Dad! Help me! I’m up here!” Slowly my dad followed the sound of my voice, tilting his head back further and further until he saw me perched at the top of the tree. Telling me to hold on, he disappeared, then, returned with a flashlight and ladder.
Dad laid the ladder against the tree and climbed up to me. He instructed me to turn backward, feel for the ladder, and he would guide me.
I Pointed my toes downward, as hard as I could, feeling for the first rung of the ladder. Before I felt the ladder, I felt my dad’s hand gently holding my ankle, “almost there”, he coached.
Dad’s arms wrapped around my shoulders as he walked me back to the house. Smiling he said, “You did something productive with your sadness. I’m proud of you. Now you have something that will last longer than a balsa wood plane – you have new knowledge, experience and a story you can tell to your children.”
To a child this sounds like something that is too far in the future to grasp. I waited a couple of days, and tried a different approach in the hope of a Balsa Wood Plane.
It was many years later when I remembered this story. It came to me as I coached my daughter down from the tops of the tree. Sitting on the back porch, I told her about the day I climbed to the top of the tree in our yard.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you” (Proverbs 3:1-2 NASB)
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