Life Lessons

Recently I met with a woman to learn about a potential character I want to write. She teaches at the university level and graciously agreed to meet with me. Naturally, I wasn’t satisfied asking one or two questions, I had a whole notebook full, so she said, why don’t you audit my class? Really, I asked, you’d let me do that?… I’d be so honored…I’ll sit back and be so quiet, you won’t even know that I’m there. Wrong, she said. If you’re in my class I’ll expect you to participate. Needless to say I’m very excited after all these years of going back to school, and taking “Psychology and Law.”

As a writer we have opportunities to learn new things on a daily basis. It’s a blessing that I think stimulates our minds and in effect keeps us young. And although writing has taught me a lot, I have to admit my greatest life lessons have come from my husband.

I’m good at subjects like English and history; he’s good at math, physics, and chemistry. Let’s put it this way, I’d never want to sit down and compare IQs. Math is my worst subject, hands down. One evening during a game of Trivial Pursuit, I asked my husband – “Who parted the Red Sea?”

He thought about it and said, “I don’t know.”

I was shocked and I laughed. “Les, Moses parted the Red Sea.” Later he told me, “Know how you feel when you can’t figure out a math problem? That’s how I felt when you ribbed me about that Trivial Pursuit question.”
I felt terrible and I apologized. He’s so gifted in other areas, it never occurred to me that he felt bad about not knowing that answer.  What’s more, my husband has never once laughed at my inability to work a complicated math problem. If I’m stuck, he patiently helps me out. I learned that night to never assume that people know what you know as a course of your upbringing.

Oh, that night he picked up a Bible and started reading, where I confess, I have yet to pick up a math book.

In the course of my husband’s career, he traveled—a lot. It wasn’t unusual for him to be gone on a Monday and get home on Friday just in time to make it to our kid’s sporting events. He was, and is a great dad who is intensely proud of his children.

Our kids are  grown and out of the house. A while back, we started having the same conversation daily when he’d come home from work. He’d ask have you heard from the kids today? He said it so often it began to annoy me. “Why do you keep asking that?” I said. “The kids don’t call every single day.”

“You got to raise them,” he replied.

What a life lesson that was.  I’d overlooked how much he was missing his kids not only now, but all those lonely hours he was on the road. It was a  wake up call to look beyond myself, look at the broader picture and the needs of my spouse.

Not everything we learn will be in a classroom. Some of the most important things I’ve learned in my life have come from compassion and straight from the heart.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve ever learned?