Terry Thornton over at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi doesn't know it, but he has been the inspiration for this new serialized feature "These Ten Things." In his post Some Simple Questions back on January 5th, he discusses sets of questions posed by the authors of A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance and how they could serve as prompts for either journal writing or blogging. I thought this was a great idea, so I copied the lists of questions and decided to post them each Sunday over the next few weeks.
Ten Things Every Man Worth His Salt
Should Know How To Do
For me, most of the items on this list may seem like “women’s work” or what one friend calls “pink jobs,” but being raised by a single mother allowed me to pick up skills that continue to serve me well into my 40s.
1. Cook. I learned how to cook out of necessity at the age of nine. Mom worked full-time so when my brother and I came home from school, we’d watch either the 4:30 Movie on WABC or an After-School Special (remember those?). About 5:00 pm I would get dinner started and we’d eat when Mom got home. I have always been able to cook ever since I learned the basics. And learning how to prepare a meal, whether for eating lunch “al desko” as I call it, or for hundreds of people, it is a great confidence builder.
2. Mind Your Manners. My great-grandmother, Therese Rose McGinnes, was a stickler for manners. All children were taught from an early age how to hold an eating utensil, how to greet an adult, how to be excused from a table, and how to write a thank you note. Manners may seem old-fashioned but, in reality, manners are the great equalizer. I was taught that you could be poor but still know how to hold a knife like the Rockefellers. Even despite being called all sorts of names, I still stand up when a woman enters the room or comes to a restaurant table or needs a seat on a bus or train. And I still place myself on the “outside” when walking with a woman. Silly? Dated? Yeah, that’s me. But you’d be surprised, especially these days, at how much good manners gets you noticed.
3. Do Your Own Taxes. The best way to understand where your money goes each year and how to prepare for the next year. The myriad of software programs make it very easy. Excuses like “my taxes are sooooo complicated” or “math is hard” aren’t valid. It’s your money and you should know who’s taking it out of your pocket, be it Uncle Sam, Social Security, or your spouse!
4. Show Compassion. For a man to be compassionate is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of understanding and ultimately strength. Before you decide to judge, walk a mile in that other person’s shoes, whether they are Manolo Blahniks or tattered cardboard pieces. Things aren’t always as they seem. And really, what does it cost you to extend a hand of kindness to pull someone up when they just can’t get up on their own?
5. Register and Vote. Realize that voting is not just a right but a responsibility. As a family historian, I know what my early ancestors went through for that right. The ancestors who fought in wars, and the ancestors who traveled from afar to build a life in America and become citizens.
6. Be A Skeptic. Don’t be “dumb as a box of hair” as my great-grandmother used to say. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. If you’ve inherited money, you’ll probably hear it from a relative, not some Nigerian via email. Being skeptical doesn’t mean being a non-believer. But like a good researcher, know your facts, and double and triple check them. Definition of an expert: not someone who knows everything about a subject, but knows enough to decide what is or isn’t within the realm believability on that subject. An expert weeds out what doesn’t fit. So does a skeptic.
7. Balance A Checkbook. Even in today’s era of Internet banking and debit card charges with approvals is sent in nanoseconds, businesses make mistakes. Know how much you have in each account. Know what to do if there is an error. Saying “I can’t be overdrawn, I still have checks left!” just doesn’t work.
8. Speak Up. No one will ever know what it is you want or don’t want or what it is you truly believe in or don’t believe in if you don’t use the voice God gave you. But use it wisely. Use it to exercise your right to free speech but at the same time allow yourself to listen to differing opinions. Use it to heal not harm. Use it tell your children and your children’s children of how life used to be when you were growing up but realize they need to find their own memories and will hopefully embrace them the same way you do yours. Use it to attract people not to drive them away. Use it to say “I love you” and “I’m sorry.” Often.
9. Read A Newspaper. How did I know it was time for me to sit at the “adult table” during family gatherings? When I could hold my own in the discussions of topics of the day. And that was all because I read or watched the news each and every day. My great-grandparents didn’t believe in “children should be seen and not heard.” And they didn’t necessarily want their offspring to always have opinions that matched theirs. But they did want them to know what in the hell they were talking about.
10. Be A Role Model. My great-grandparents taught me it doesn’t take wealth or possessions to be successful. Most, if not all, of my ancestors who came here from Ireland, England, Holland and Germany had little more than the clothes on their back when they arrived. And many of them left this world with not much more than that. But I’d like to think that they brought with them and cultivated what could be called “character.” And they passed this on to their children and descendants. Even when you’re not “doing” you can still be “affecting” someone and those actions or inactions, those words or periods of silence, mold you in the eyes of others around you. A big burden? You bet. But if you follow your heart and “use the sense God gave you,” then it’ll be second nature. As my mother said, “Just be yourself and people will love you the way I love you.”