Most families function under some kind of motto, though very few take the trouble to name it outright.
Probably your family has a united mission of this sort, whether you know it or not -- some guiding principle that everyone subconsciously adheres to; a rule that quietly governs the behaviour of those within the household. Perhaps your family motto is something like: “Mind your own business,” or its near-opposite, “What’s yours is mine.” In my house, growing up, the motto was, “A job half-done is a job not done at all,” and there could be rather severe consequences for unfinished chores and duties.
In Jason’s house, the motto wasn’t only spoken, but it was also written up and framed over their dining room table. It was certainly something his mother and father believed, but Jason wasn’t quite as loyal to the family motto as were his parents. It read: “Hard work builds good character.”
Thanks to the motto, Jason found himself doing very difficult things on a regular basis. Most of them were not the type of project that could be finished with an hour of diligent effort, through diligence was certainly helpful when tackling the jobs that his parents put on his proverbial plate. Last summer, for example, Jason’s dad had completely demolished their front porch -- and rebuilding it took up every weekend of the school holiday. Jason had worked beside him the whole time, helping to measure and drill, hammer and saw. It was a fun project for the first weekend or two, especially during the demolition phase, but Jason tired of porch-building long before it was finished.
“I want to do something else,” Jason protested one Saturday morning. It was only ten o’clock, and sweat was already starting to bead up on his forehead from the heat. “Can’t we take a day off?”
“Jason, this is a big project. If we put it off today, it’ll be that much easier to put it off again tomorrow, and next weekend. Better to persevere and buckle-down. Let’s get as much done as we can before we take a break. Remember, we’re building a deck, but we’re also building our character! There is double satisfaction for those who stick it out when things get hard.”
Jason sighed. He thought a day off from character building would be nice too. But in time, bit by bit, the new front porch had taken shape under their diligent effort. When they finally finished the whole thing, Jason was proud of what they had built together and proud of himself for making it all the way to the end without quitting.
Jason was in the middle of a new project right now. He’d come up with the idea at Christmas when his mom had made a passing comment about wanting a nice, warm blanket that she could use when she was reading. His mom loved to read, and curled up on the couch nearly every night with a novel of some kind. She read big, thick books with thousands of pages, chipping away at them a chapter at a time. She read the Lord of the Rings, David Copperfield, Don Quixote and the Bible. Basically, as long as it was too big for a backpack, she was into it.
Jason hadn’t developed the perseverance to get all the way through even one of her favourite books, but he was determined to help her enjoy them all the more by making her a blanket to curl up with.
He’d roped his dad into helping him get the supplies he needed, and went to YouTube for a tutorial on how to crochet. He stuck to simple stitches and basic yarn, and made excellent progress for the first little while. His mom’s birthday was quite close to Mother’s Day, so his goal was to finish in time to give the blanket to her as a gift that would cover both… but by the end of January, things were feeling pretty hopeless, and his excitement about the blanket had evaporated.
“I want to do something else,” Jason sighed. “Dad, do you think Mom would like this as a scarf instead?”
“It’s pretty big for a scarf, at this point,” said his father. “Harder than you thought it would be, eh?”
Jason nodded. His dad put down his phone and looked over at Jason compassionately. “You’ve set yourself a mighty goal, and the road ahead might still be a long one, but there is tremendous value in persevering through to the end of any project you’ve set your mind to. And you’ll be proud of yourself when you finish! Keep going, buddy, bit by bit, one step and one stitch at a time. You can do it.”
Jason sighed. He could feel his character stretching with every twist of the yarn and dodge of the needle. His fingers were sore and his brain was burning, but he kept at the task with diligence until the big scarf grew into a full-sized blanket, nice and warm and perfect for curling up with a book.
Jason’s mother cried when she unwrapped his birthday / Mother’s Day present, which is always a good sign. And he was proud of himself for making it all the way through, without quitting. He didn’t want to admit it, but he couldn’t help himself: maybe there was something true about his family’s motto after all.