Parents, welcome back from your summer vacation. You can delete the Groupon emails offering discounted stand up paddling off Oak Street or Duffy boat rides in Newport Harbor. It’s time to get back to work as parents.
Schools are in session this week and those of you with kids in class already have two assignments. First, operate as if Sept. 1 is the new Jan. 1, substituting parades and bowl games for new books and backpacks. Second, pen that perennial September essay, “How did I spend my summer vacation?” Parents might benefit from what I learned from this writing exercise.
My composition focuses less on the grandeur of hiking Mt. Rainer for the first time and more on the insights from spending time with an old childhood friend, John. We met through Boy Scouts and attended the same schools as children. We’d gone different directions after graduation; I started at UCLA and he opted for laboring on a dangerous fishing boat off Alaska’s coast. In spite of overlooking what college offered, John later showed his smarts by leaving fishing and launching a demolition company that grew to be the nation’s second largest after 30 years. While sightseeing on Lake Washington aboard his yacht, we reflected on what life had dealt the two of us as well as our friends.
John was intrigued about Jim, our mutual childhood friend, who had an early reputation as one who could cut corners on others and sometimes be selfish. John asked why I am still close with Jim and what it was that kept our friendship going after many years. Knowing the Jim who long ago grew up, my explanation was easy and compelling, “He always makes an effort. Jim tries and works at being a friend.” I was stunned at first on how simple my reasoning was, and how it really was what mattered most—trying and making an effort. Jim’s efforts and my learning to reciprocate have rewarded us both with a lifelong and special bond.
I was reminded of my college calculus teacher who graded on your work and efforts at solving a problem and not whether your answer was correct. He wore a No. 28 jersey while proctoring the final. As the exam wore on, if you’d correctly applied yourself and the formulas the answer to all the problems was the same, 28. Yet, the answer was less relevant, as we all knew the grade was based on effort and work. If your problem solving concluded at 28, you were at least rewarded knowing your efforts paid off.
This new school year offers many rewarding opportunities for parents to make an effort. It will most often take the form of volunteering, whether in the classroom or PTA, sports programs, or extracurricular programs from Scouts to Schoolpower. It is said that 80 percent of volunteering is done by 20 percent of people. For those reluctant to take part, know that there is no grade or measure of how much you help or what your volunteerism delivers. Showing up is what counts. So start this school year as if it’s the real new year and make it your resolution to volunteer. You and Laguna Beach will be richly rewarded.
Let’s hope to see lots of parents wearing No. 28 jerseys at schools and on practice fields as they’ll have answered the call by making an effort.
Paul Meyer is a 17-year Laguna resident, husband, father and volunteer. His day job is helping people lease or buy office and industrial properties.