Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Sword of Hard Work

 This is a photo of "The Sword of Hard Work". It is a traveling trophy that goes home with the student that works the hardest in class. Tonight it went home with Colin. At five years old Colin is my youngest student. Tonight Colin worked very hard at standing still and not talking, Standing still and not talking can be very hard work for some of us. If you knew me you would know just how true that is for me.

Of course there is a story that goes along with the sword. The sword is not only a trophy but is is a lesson for the students and a reminder for myself. The sword is ancient by my young students standards. It was "smithed" in December of 1988. Hand forged by me in my basement before it had become a dojo and before I returned to martial arts in 1994.

On December 13th I started a new job at Hallmark Cards Inc. In Kansas City Mo. I moved my family from The Windy City. In doing so we put almost all of our equity from the sale of our home into our little house on the prairie. I also learned that I would be receiving a paycheck only once a month. Ouch. Merry Christmas.

In one day I had gone from holding the biggest check I ever held in my life to having next to nothing in the bank or in my pocket. This began what my wife refers to as "The Toast Years". "What's for dinner dear? I don't know, how does toast sound." "Would you like toast with your toast?" "At least it's warm in here. One might even say it's toasty." In those lean years we never missed a meal. As long as you consider toast a meal.

Back to the "Sword" story. Because there was not much left in the bank as Christmas approached my wife made a suggestion. She suggested that we make our gifts and added the stipulation that they be made from something that was already in the house. No cheating by going out and buying supplies.

That Christmas I made the sword for my son who was almost two at the time. He was also very in to Pirates. I made the sword from a shelf from the family room. I painted it with leftover wall paint and added some flourishes with a sharpy. In the following weeks, months and years there were many sword fights. Some over honor. Some over bedtimes. Often we fortified ourselves for long campaigns with toast. We did not have much during that time but my memories of that period are still pretty sweet. It really doesn't take much to enjoy life.

For my students "The Sword of Hard Work" is a trophy. A kind of silly one at that. For me it is a reminder. It is a reminder that when times get hard, be creative. A reminder to work hard and persevere. Hard work can pay off but don't forget to have fun.  Most importantly, remember, to do those things with and for the others. 

I'm still employed by Hallmark. We paid off our mortgage a few years ago. We own our house. A house with a dojo in it. I teach karate classes. What is the curriculum. Avoid fighting but be prepared to enter the fight. Work hard, persevere, have fun, love people.

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