Lessons learned from mom continue to serve us well

By the end of 2009, I will have lived more of my life without my mom than with her. She died of cancer in the mid-1980s. Her ability to teach and educate still exceeds anything I have ever experienced in my life so far. I continue to draw on the lessons I learned from her.

Unconditional Love and Support

My mom never put conditions on her love for me, my brothers or her friends and colleagues. Could she be disappointed or frustrated? Absolutely. But even during these times, I never once questioned her love and support. “Show your love and support for each person by your behaviors and actions,” she would tell me.

Always be Grateful and Appreciative

My mom was almost 40 when I was born. She grew up in the 1920s and ‘30s and lived through World War II. She shared stories of getting in ration lines without knowing what was being distributed. She knew that if she did not need the item, she could trade it for something. As a non-smoker, she loved when cigarettes were handed out. She could easily trade with someone for sugar, flour or even nylons! My mom would share this story when I would complain about working or having to do something that I didn’t consider fun. “Always, always be grateful for the opportunity to work and provide for yourself and your future family.”

Never Stop Learning

My mom graduated from Enumclaw High School in 1941 at age 16 and enrolled in Seattle Business College. Because of the war and the circumstances after the war, my mom never attended a university, even though she would have loved this opportunity. She became one of the first four women hired at Mutual of Enumclaw (then known as Enumclaw Farmer’s Insurance). I remember stories that she told me when I was a teenager about the magic of a word processor. She said so many of the employees at Mutual were scared to transition from a typewriter. She would tell me, “Never stop learning or be afraid of change.”

I began writing this piece as a gift for my children who never knew my mom. I have often made New Year’s resolutions around eating or exercise, but I now wonder how I might purposefully add these three areas to my list as 2009 begins.

A former elementary school teacher, Mike Nelson is the Enumclaw School District Superintendent. He grew up in Enumclaw and is a 1981 Enumclaw High graduate.

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