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7 Lessons I Learned From My Son

August 3, 2010   |   Reflection

Last week my youngest son asked me if I would help him build a desk for his room.  I asked him what he was going to use for materials.  He said that he had found stuff in the garage and had a plan in mind.

Each night he would ask if I would come out to the garage and cut some pieces of wood that he had measured and marked.  It was hot.  I was tired.  I put him off.  He kept asking.  Finally after four days, the guilt had built up and I went out in the garage (with added prompting from my wife) to build a desk and “make a memory” that he would look back upon as he grew older.

I have to admit though, that I was just waiting for the obstacle to appear that would postpone our project.  In the garage it was 104 degrees F and my t-shirt was soaked through in the first 15 minutes.

You see, as we were cutting wood, and fastening the pieces together according to my son’s master plan, he stopped what he was doing and he says, “Dad, I’m going to change the world with this desk.”  My jaw dropped.

At this point I realized that I was being schooled.  I thought that by going out into the garage and helping my son, I was helping him make a memory.   The tables had been turned.

I had forgotten what it was like to be 11 years old, when anything was possible – a time when we could build amazing creations out of stuff that was just lying around.   As adults, it seems, we always need to have a detailed plan, a list of all the right materials, the precise tools for the job, the perfect weather, the best helpers, and also be in the mood.

7 Lessons I learned from my son

  1. See what others don’t see. In a pile of scrap lumber in the garage my son saw the makings of a desk.  He sees potential.  I most often see the pitfalls.
  2. Absolutely everything is possible. An 11-year-old knows that everything is possible.  Be 11 years old forever.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer. He asked me four nights in a row to help him build that desk:  I said, “not tonight.”  Eventually I said, “yes.”  Keep at it.
  4. Don’t get discouraged. Even when I told my son “not tonight,” he didn’t get disheartened.
  5. There’s no time like right now! He had an idea and was determined to make it happen.  How many times have I caught myself making plans like:  When the kids are grown then we’ll do this thing?  Seize the moment.
  6. Use what you have right now – talents and materials.  To make something happen, you don’t need investors, money, tools, office space, staff, or anything other than what you already have been given.   Don’t set up hurdles that don’t exist.
  7. Perfection is not necessary. My 11-year-old’s plan for his desk was his own.  I would have probably done it differently.  I would have over-engineered it.  I would have used special wood and hardware.  I would have measured everything just so.  However, “My” desk still wouldn’t be built.  Life is not perfect.  Just do it – or you will never do it.

My son’s desk is finished and he’s been using it in his room – to change the world as he draws and writes and designs his many ideas.  And for the past week I’ve been thinking… what am I going to do with what my son has taught me?   How am I going to change the world?



Deacon Kevin Richardson

Kevin is a Catholic Deacon who serves in a parish setting and works with adults and teens, incarcerated individuals, and people who are homeless. He grew up in New England and spent decades exploring, hiking, and camping in the forests of New Hampshire.

Deacon Kevin leads Holy Adventure Outdoor Ministry, located in Central Illinois, and provides unique outdoor programs and retreat opportunities (from several hours to multiple days) to encounter God while immersed in the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation. Programs are Bible based and offer an introduction to a wide variety of wilderness living and survival skills.

This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. BRILLIANT post!

    Due to time differences I’m reading this first thing in the morning in the UK, and it has totally set my mood for the day.


  2. i remember that day like yesterday full of joy and sweat but it was worth it to be with my dad but the best part was when we were done with every little insisting detail on my part we flipped the desk over and wrote built by father and son kevin and brendan with assistance of connor so even when im grown up ill remember that day.

  3. Kevin,
    This is a truly amazing story that you are sharing. What insight and what grace we have as children of a God that loves us. It is amazing to know that if we let go and let God the truly amazing will happen. Thank you for sharing that. It lit a fire under me as I start a new job next week to approach each no that I will get along the way with the open eyes of an 11 year old and to look at my opportunity as one that could change the world. Thanks for sharing!!
    God Bless,

  4. Brendan is a great kid – I have no doubt he will change the world! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

    @Brendan — You’re the Man! Can’t wait to see your next world-changing project ideas!

  6. Wow… Truer words were never spoken. Thank you Kevin and B you given me pause to reflect and see how this could work in my own life. A God wink…and I love it!

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