The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 11, 2011

Leading by example is not easy

By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

— Do you lead by example? Think about it.

There is not a day goes by that I don’t refer in some way to the way I was raised. I was so fortunate to have wonderful examples that taught me.  Both sets of grandparents, both parents, older and younger siblings, teachers, ministers and friends all lead me by their example.

From all of them, I was taught to have an honest work ethic and work just as hard when the boss of parents were watching as when they were out of sight. I was taught honesty, manners, kindness, empathy for others and any and all good traits I have. I was not just born knowing how to behave. I had good leaders who lead by example.

I was not just told what to do and what not to do, I was shown. I was taught that I could do anything they did. They did not say one thing and do another. Adults should know more than kids do to lead by example whether it is in health issues or proper nutrition or exercise.  

It breaks my heart to see parents who smoke. Whether they are doing it in front of their children or behind the woodshed, the kids have to know they smoke. Anyone can smell them and their clothes. It has been proven that second-hand smoke is a harmful for kids as their smoking themselves. How dare we jeopardize a child’s health or our own by having such a habit?

I am not proud of the fact at one time I smoked. That was back 40 years ago when everyone was lighting up after every meal and when socializing. Nearly all Jim’s Marine buddies and their wives smoked. When we got together it was like a smoke house to cure hams. Little by little every one of them quit as well as did the wives.

I did not give up smoking for the Marines. I gave it up for me and because I did not want it on my conscience that one of my precious nieces or nephews or grandchildren started because they saw me doing it. I wanted to lead by example. For several weeks I kept cigarettes in my tea towel drawer so I would know that it was my choice to quit and not just because I was temporarily out. I was never tempted to get one and light it. I am so glad I quit. Anyone can if they make up their mind to do it. It happens first in the mind and then it manifests itself in forming a good or bad habit. I quit for my health and because with all the research and information we have available now, I know it is so bad for us.

It is also bad for younger people to look at us and think it is okay, when it isn’t. I have been told by my nieces since they are grown that they always looked up to me as an example. Wow! What a compliment but what a responsibility it is. I would bet that there are people looking to you also as an example and a guide for life. Kids do mimic what they see whether good or bad.  

As I said earlier, the same goes for eating. They eat what is handy when they come in from school famished. They will eat fruit if it is handy or candy if it is handier. It is our choice how we set an example for them.

My parents were so sold on education that they helped us kids every night with our homework. We learned many fun shortcuts from them in math. We learned many keys to learning in history. We were turned on to science by stories they told or demonstrated. We were encouraged to read and write. I think the reason I still love to write and put my thoughts on paper is because of their support and leadership and urging.

Another area where I and my siblings got lots of leading by example was in attending church and Bible study. They never just “took” us to church, but went with us. We studied at home as my parents did not solely depend on our Sunday school teachers to tell us about our Lord and Savior. We went to Sunday school and church every Sunday which was no small feat since we lived six miles from town and the church on dirt roads. When it rained or snowed, those roads had no bottom and were impassable as well as impossible.

On those rare days, we had additional Bible study on Sundays at home. I have never understood why people do not encourage their children to develop a faith, saying that when they get older they can make their own choice of religion.

How on earth can they make an educated decision if they have not been taught in the ways of at least one denomination? Most of our basic beliefs are more alike than different when we really study them.

Every parent I know is caught up in the soccer, football, basketball, dance class, acrobatic class, band or cheer leader rat race and are very busy with taking their kids to and from those activities. I can tell you that the happiest kids are those whose parents are involved in their day-to-day lives. Those parents will never be sorry they took the time to interact with their kids and those same kids look to their parents for sportsmanship, guidance, example and encouragement.

Many kids look to sports figures and Hollywood actors as example for life. Many sports figures are and actors are good examples for our kids, but some of them definitely are not. That goes for all walks of life, not just those in the public eye.  All of us adults need to weigh what we do and say and are because some young person is watching us.

My friend, Sandy, leads by example. She makes the most wonderful cake. Here is her recipe:

Fruit Cocktail Cake

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup white sugar

11⁄2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

dash of salt

16 ounce can fruit cocktail (undrained)

1⁄2 cup brown sugar

1⁄2 cup chopped pecans

two tablespoons butter

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat egg, vanilla and white sugar together. Then add flour, soda, salt and fruit cocktail. Pour into greased 8x8 inch baking dish. Mix brown sugar, pecans, butter and cinnamon and sprinkle on top. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.