Lessons Learned from Dad

I’m a Daddy’s girl, through and through. As a little girl, I would gobble my food at dinner quickly and then migrate to my father’s lap, just to be close to him. Long after I could do it myself, I still asked him to cut up my meat for me because it meant that I got to sit next to him at the table.

My father’s arms have always been a haven for me. When the world got hard, or scary, I could always retreat to his embrace and gain strength from his love and devotion. When I got cold, I’d snuggle close to Dad in his wool sweater and get warm. I have no doubt that if I ever need it, he will hand me the very shirt off his back.

Some of my fondest memories of my Dad are of working in the garden with him. In my home growing up, the garden was Daddy’s sanctuary. Every day after work, he would take a stroll through his garden beds (often accompanied by his little girl)…watering here, trimming a plant there, checking to see what was ripe or needed attention. He was vigilant in his care of the garden, and he yielded a beautiful yard of flowers and a delicious harvest every season.

I always loved going with him and trying to “help”. When I think back on it now, I’m sure he would have sometimes enjoyed a little solitude after a busy day at the office filled with solving problems and dealing with difficult people, but he always allowed me to follow him around, listening as I told him stories about my day and asked a million questions. I spent many Saturday mornings learning the proper depth to plant sugar snap peas, checking for aphids on grape vines, and hunting for worms in the compost heap. I loved how their wiggly little bodies tickled the palm of my hand.

During all that time in the garden, my dad allowed me to learn some of life’s most important lessons…without ever preaching a word.

After all, the key to a successful garden isn’t all that different than the key to a good life.

What is that key?

You reap what you sow.

When I worked with Dad in the garden, I learned that you can throw seeds down in whatever dirt happens to be nearby, and they might grow, or they might not. Or, as my dad did, you can prepare the soil, add compost and fertilizer, research which plants complement each other, and give your plants the best chance for success.

I remember going out to check on the garden every day as a little girl…waiting for the day that I’d see a little green sprout poking up through the soil. Then, more waiting. But the satisfaction of seeing plants sprout where my little hands had sown seeds made all the waiting and the hard work worth it.

It was a lot of work to prepare for and maintain a garden, but I learned that when you put in the required effort, that effort will be rewarded. As Dad says, “If you’re going to do something at all, do it right.” That mindset is part of what has helped me succeed in life. Dad taught me to work hard and expect the results to come…and they have.

I’ve applied Dad’s example to my relationships, too. I remember him saying once that people generally know their faults. They don’t need you to point them out. Instead, the best way to help someone change for the better is to compliment them on what they’re doing right. When you sow encouragement and love, that is what you will reap.

Although it may seem funny, I learned from Dad to treat people like plants: provide them with the necessities of life, cultivate them with kind words and love, and look for ways to keep them healthy and happy.

My father has spent his life growing things: plants, yes, but also people—our family and our community. He’s sacrificed over and over again in the name of building something bigger than himself. And all that work has led to an impressive harvest: five children, twelve grandchildren, and a thriving city that he has spent decades building through his career. His example of diligence, love, and cultivating beauty in the world around him has blessed my life and taught me how to bless the lives of others.

And now that I have kids of my own, I take them to the garden. We sow our seeds, and I hope they’ll get to harvest some delicious peas and tomatoes. But more importantly, I hope they’ll harvest some of those same lessons I learned from my dad as we dug in the dirt together.

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