Lesson Learned (March 31)


A long, long time ago, I began my navigation of adolescence with the help of the 4-H Charting program. 4-H steered me right. I want to take 10 minutes to navigate you all, so I stopped by the West Virginia University Extension Service on Main Street here in Buckhannon. My friend Craig Presar, 4-H Extension Agent, gave me a copy of the current guide book, which I reviewed and I can recommend to each of you as a navigational guide for your journey.

As an example—knowing who you are is fundamental.

Be mindful.

Begin with self-understanding.

Develop critical thinking / decision making.

Work constantly on communication.

Improve your serve through leadership skills.

Plan your future.

Humor helps me keep my balance. Here is a story from my life. My dad was a Country Doctor who loved West Virginia. We would go with him when he continued his medical education in Charleston, our capital city. One time we stayed at the Daniel Boone Hotel. He and Mother wanted us five children to meet the highest ranking leader in our state—our Governor.

We walked about 10 blocks up to our beautiful Capitol. Mother found the Executive Suite. We marched into Governor Cecil Underwood’s secretary’s office. However, we were disappointed that the Governor was out. Mom then boldly asked if we could at least sit in his office chair since we had walked so far.

Lo and behold, the secretary said yes. As a third grader from Academy School in Buckhannon, I enjoyed Governor Cecil Underwood’s swivel chair so much, twirling around and around.

Lesson learned: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

A second Governor’s story applies also, navigating adolescence here in Upshur County. Our family farm is at Hemlock. This is in remote southern Upshur County. In fact, the post office / country store and school are now closed, but Mount Olive Church stands active high on a hill. The original log church was struck by lightning and burned. The good folk rebuilt the church as a wooden building, but lo and behold it too was struck by lightning. Now it has been rebuilt again, this time with brick!

Lesson learned: Never give up!

In navigating, remember the North Star that never moves as the Earth rotates. We all need the unmovable, unchangeable, always faithful in our life!

During this time of courage and bravery on the part of the citizens of the democratic country of Ukraine—I salute them for not giving up! President Volodymyr Zelenskyy leads his nation with great leadership skills.

He speaks with the resolve of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up!”

My late beloved wife, Araceli, and I took our children to tour the British Isles, including the birthplace and childhood home of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace. How pleased I was that Maria and Ronce learned the lesson of never giving up! We were hiking around the farm when Ronce spotted some 1,000-year-old trees that had fallen over in a recent storm. From the giant roots, sprouts of new growth could be seen. Ronce exclaimed: “Look Mommy, look Daddy! The trees have never given up!”

Let that be your second lesson learned: Never give up!

Finally, let me tell you another Hemlock lesson learned. This is timely because we are in school for a grand meal prepared by our Career Technical Education chefs! May we never forget our educational roots and our heritage.

When the Hemlock School was still open, we had a need for a teacher. Then and now teachers are in short supply. Dad and Mom liked Dr. Minnie Merrell, who had recently retired. She had an illustrious career teaching all around the world. Earlier our youngest Governor Cecil Underwood had been in her first grade class in Salem, West Virginia, where my mom grew up.

Mom and Dad convinced her that she could complete a stellar (North Star) career by teaching in a rural, one-room schoolhouse! Teach just one year at Hemlock, they said!

Well, this appealed to her sense of adventure, so she said “Yes”! The next day she began her drive from her College Avenue home, climbing ever higher up the narrow, winding roads through Tallmansville, Queens and finally up a rutted, stone base road up toward Hemlock Ridge.

The road conditions horrified her. When she got home she knew what to do. She called up her former first grade student, now Governor Cecil Underwood.

“Cecil, this is your first grade teacher, Minnie Merrell. Pave the road to Hemlock!” she appealed.

Lo and behold, the next morning before she headed up to Hemlock, the Department of Highways was already paving the 25-mile country road. “Country Roads, Take Me Home!”

Lesson learned: Work constantly on your communication.

In closing, each student and family can have a copy of the eighth book I’ve written. You will note “Coping With Crisis: A West Virginia Doctor’s Perspective” has four parts. “Part 2: Personal Reflections While ‘Sheltering At Home’” has 17 daily journal selections.

As you navigate adolescence, keep a journal or a diary. This is for your benefit. Just like 4-H Charting, during this process you will find your way. Seek and you will find, and never give up!

Have a great life.

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