In my early life, I often had to make the best of it. Times were hard and we were poor. But, even though we were poor in funds, we were rich in so many other ways. We had loving parents, my sister, two brothers and I were tight knit and supportive, and I learned many valuable lessons that have made my life what it is today.
Much of the “wealth” of my childhood came from wonderful parents who worked from home. They were always there when I left for school and were always there when I got home. You may think how astounding that was - both parents at home - but their attentiveness was greatly influenced by our bedrooms being connected to the small country restaurant that they owned and operated! This meant that both of my parents were there for us when we needed them and that they could keep an eye on us and the business at the same time.
Because the business was my home, I waited on tables and pumped gas from a very young age. I learned early on how to add multiple numbers in my head and how to make change. This gave me the opportunity to interact with customers and ultimately - receive tips. Once, I even got a whole dollar, which was really something in 1957 at the age of 10!
Working for tips was an education in itself. Tips boosted my confidence, infused me with interpersonal skills, and provided some all important spending money. My dad was one not to give any of us kids ANY money for anything. He was of the opinion that he and my mother would provide food, shelter and clothing. We kids had to come up with our own spending money. If we wanted something bad enough, we would earn it by getting tips in the restaurant, pumping gas, mowing lawns or selling cold drinks at UF Gator football games.
One Christmas, things were really tight financially, and we kids were given only a piece of clothing and an apple; no toys at all. That bleak Christmas Day, we decided to make the best of it and opened up the restaurant and gas pumps - a novel idea in a time when all businesses were closed on Christmas Day.
And, indeed, it worked out very well! We were incredibly busy the entire day. With all the other places up and down the highway closed, hundreds of people traveling along Highway 301 that Christmas Day who needed coffee, a quick bite, and gasoline stopped at our restaurant! At day’s end, we had made more money than we had ever made in a whole week! Our Christmas was greatly improved and those folks traveling down 301 got that cup of coffee or tank of gas they needed to help make their Christmas better. We made the best of it and in turn, made the day better for others.
The hardships I experienced as a child provided me the best lessons of my life. And I think that is because my parents never let hardships seem like something that would last forever. Hardships were to be worked through, learned from and then banked away - not dwelled upon. We just made the best of it and moved on.
My parents often reminded me that as life unfolds there will be obstacles to deal with. “If you let obstacles get the best of you and beat you, you’ve squandered what the good Lord gave you - and that is the power to overcome them. Remember to always make the best of every situation. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are far better off than most of the people in the world.”
When you experience hardship - remember it's not over, unless you give up. It’s an opportunity to overcome. When things get really tough, go deep down into the core of your being and connect with the power within you. From there, begin again, and make the best of it. You’ll be amazed at what transpires!
Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad! Thanks for teaching me to make the best of difficult situations - it’s made all the difference!