TW Viewpoint | If It Was Easy...

February 25, 2022 | Stephen Jokela

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There were five kids in my blended family, growing up during the 1950s, and my stepfather was a genius at keeping all of us busy. As kids, we were allowed to play, but first, there was a myriad of chores and maintenance projects that kept us busy doing productive things. The usual chores, like regularly mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, and raking leaves, over time grew into adding an extra room to our house, painting the house, stripping hardwood floors for waxing, and painting and hanging wallpaper in an upstairs apartment. All this industry did not go unnoticed.

Once, a neighbor stopped by and asked, "Do you rent these kids out?" My stepfather replied, "No, I have enough to keep them busy." And so, it was, even when it came to each of us learning to drive.

With driving privileges came further responsibility. For example, if we had a flat tire, he expected us to know how to fix it ourselves. At one point there were five vehicles in our household, and those vehicles needed lots of upkeep. We changed the oil on schedule, changed spark plugs, and replaced fuel pumps, starters, batteries, etc. as needed. Doing these things was a real stretch for me since I don't have a mechanical aptitude, but my stepfather was always nearby with pointers and encouragement.

He also kept us in line in other ways. As teenagers, if we stayed out too late, he would not fuss about it. He would simply get us up an hour or so earlier than usual to get to whatever tasks he had for us that day. About mid-morning, he would say, "I hope you had a good time last night, but you might want to get home when you are supposed to, so you don't have to get up so early!" As you might imagine, we complained bitterly about the difficulty of our many tasks. He would listen, then respond with, "Boys, if it was easy, everyone would do it—but very few do!" We heard that often.

We learned valuable life lessons as we tackled difficult projects and learned skills that would serve us well as adults. My stepfather was a tough taskmaster, and I remember thinking back then that he was a tyrant. Later, I realized that he was preparing us for life. Before he died at a good old age, I thanked him for being willing to put up with our complaints as he accomplished his purpose, pushing us out of our comfort zones to learn to work and do productive things—and I never forgot his adage.

My siblings all were molded by these experiences and used the resulting work ethic and "can do" attitude to accomplish good things in their various endeavors. I think we all have looked back and realized that we were being prepared for a productive life. I also learned to see a spiritual connection to the lessons my stepfather taught me.

Humans have a tendency to avoid doing the hard but necessary thing and often chose an easier but less productive path, sometimes leading to very bad results. Ancient wisdom, recorded 2000 years ago described the same principle this way: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (The Bible: Matthew 7:13–14).

Most people choose the path of life that leads to the easy way, but, only a few choose the narrow gate. Those who choose the difficult way will encounter many obstacles and distractions to be overcome, but through that experience they become stronger, more self-disciplined, and are generally more successful and happier.

If it was easy, everyone would do it—but very few do. Have the courage to be one of the few.

Adapted from "If It Was Easy..." by J. Davy Crockett III.

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