I was sitting at a bar on my sons college campus in the US, talking to a young man who I had met for the first time. He said to me “I don’t want to be like my dad…” and went on to explain how his dad often used to get a call from work just when he sat down for dinner with the family and he always used to take it. His mom used to get angry and the meal was often over by the time his dad came back. His dad explained why he had to take the call (and the logic was sound from his perspective) but family meal times were often disrupted by work as he wistfully recalled. This young man hopefully will be able to make different choice because of the choices his dad made.
He also shared an inspiring story about his mom who after 30 years in one job went to college to study something she always wanted to and made a career switch. The power of education to make life choices possible was staring me in the face in so many different ways as I walked around the sprawling UIUC campus. Towering buildings, magnificent libraries, well manicured gardens and so many beautiful facilities that allowed for dreams to be nurtured and hopes to blossom in many wonderful shades. The air was fresh and alive with possibilities.
College is not just about the education it’s about the experiences that open up along with the mind that opens. The young man I was talking to was very aware and grateful for the opportunity he was getting because of what his parents had made possible for him. The possibility of having an uninterrupted family meal is something he looks forward to possibly because he never had the chance to enjoy that family time. Possibly his parents are happy to know that they have given him the opportunity to study and get a college degree, but are unaware of how much he valued the family time he never got with them.
This is the cycle of life. Parents wanting to give their children the chance to enjoy something that they could not. Children wanting to get more time from their parents (at a certain age) and then time runs out and they want to run and explore the world. This week in so many ways, I was reminded of the importance of family time and the power of education. It also reminded me that work is what puts food on the table and provides a chance for education. Finding the right balance is important. To all the moms and dads out there who put education at the heart of their family, it is the gift that keeps on giving. But do also remember to work hard to squeeze in some quality family time when possible. The UIUC motto, “Learning and Labor,” so beautifully reflects this duality.
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