What I Learned From My Parents

I grew up in a very middle-class neighborhood with two full-time working parents. I thought we were rich! Both of my parents worked, had nice cars, we had plenty of food and I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. As I got older, I learned much more about life from my parents. And I learned that we were in fact not rich!

I watched my mother teach school and later become an administrator, but she always had a “side” job working from home some nights for an education-based company. I learned a strong work ethic as I watched her find a passion and turn it into a career.

My dad believed in playing hard to balance work. He was the “fun” dad in the neighborhood, always taking us places like to the State Fair, or the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show (yes, I grew up in that county to our west!). Summers were spent at the lake, usually in a boat he had painstakingly refinished. Dad taught us that it was important to find joy and balance in life.

He also taught us that food was joy! He loved to grocery shop, and he was the cook and grill master in our family. But what we truly learned from him was the reward from sharing and feeding those in need. If someone needed groceries, he was always there with a sack or a hot meal.

My son is now in college, but I look back and hope he learned similar values from his dad and me. He grew up around ACO. When he was young, he helped me deliver Meals On Wheels. His job was to carry the milk and Jell-O cups to the door. Later he was in the food pantry stocking shelves and helped with the school supplies and backpack project and holiday toy drives. He learned there was joy in helping others and giving back in the community. We also taught the importance of being financially responsible and saving for the future. And he learned the importance of education and building a career to be self-sufficient which is now his primary focus.

What I didn’t learn until later in life was that not all children learn these values and life skills from their parents.

Many adults who come to ACO for assistance have not learned to budget their money to maintain a household. They were not encouraged to finish high school and might not have had the means to attend college. They grew up simply going from job to job, and month to month just to survive. Even more concerning, they are not teaching their children important life skills because they do not know them themselves.

That is where ACO’s mission becomes more about parenting these adults so that they can prevent hunger and homelessness in their own family and find a path to financial stability. There is a learning curve that must take place and our trained case managers have the parenting skills necessary to teach and nurture. As counselors, we can instill responsible habits, help find the career path that will not only bring them financial stability but create joy and pride. It all takes time and patience to do so.

ACO provides the immediate needs such as food and shelter to stabilize the family but continues to support and teach. ACO’s Cares Center and Food Pantry is crucial to provide the essentials to help them sustain as they continue this path to self-sufficiency. ACO’s Learning Academy is critical to help with training for the future through financial literacy and other life skills. ACO’s Employment Center is vital to help search for and find living wage jobs and create a career path.

However, we cannot parent alone. We need volunteers to work alongside our staff to provide efficient and effective programs. And we need donors to provide financial support to keep the programs and services available to those who need it most. We need partners in our parenting efforts to teach our neighbors how to be strong and stable. We need your help. Please join hands with ACO and help us in our mission to prevent hunger and homelessness and provide a path to financial stability.

One more thing…

My brother and I were extremely fortunate and grew up “rich” with unconditional love, guidance and support. But what we learned most from our parents was to GIVE. We learned by example that giving to others is the true joy of life.

I see the impact of your gifts to ACO every day. With your support and a little extra “parenting” we are changing lives! GIVE online today with the link below. Thank you for helping us in our mission.



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