Lessons from My Mom

Her name was Helen Margaret Koenke Walker. Today, Thanksgiving Day, would have been her 95th birthday. She was a teach-by-example kind of mother. Helen taught her children to be good parents and teachers and workers by being a good parent and teacher and worker.

One of my sisters said there are two kinds of moms: bike-riding moms, and moms who stayed home or watched. Our mom was a bike-riding mom. She had a zest for life—always ready for a new adventure. As her children, we were both grateful and proud of that. Mom was a curious, lifelong learner before that was a term. Helen instilled in her children, compassion, and a love of people, nature, water, travel, music, and knowledge. Following are ten life-lessons from a wise, wise woman.

Don’t quit—It’s okay to try, and fail, but it’s not okay to quit. It’s not okay to not give it your best effort. Walkers are not quitters.

People are more important than things—When someone needed her advice, our mother gave them her undivided attention. She could always clean the house later. If an heirloom got broken or an accident totaled a car, her first concern was the safety of the people involved. We can replace cars. We cannot replace people.

Work while you are on the clock—It seems like a given, but it would surprise you to know what people do at work that is not work, and how bosses notice when you are working. Don’t steal your company’s time. If you are at work, WORK.

Leave things better than you found them—Campsites, parking lots, and public restrooms always looked better after mom left. If she borrowed something, it was cleaner, full of gas, or repaid two-fold upon its return.

Listen—Mom was as good as they come when someone needed an ear. She heard what a person was saying and what they were not saying. Yes, she gave advice, good advice, but mom was not thinking about what she wanted to say while the other person talked. She listened.

Keep your promises—If you tell someone you will be there, BE THERE. When you promise to take your child to the park, TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE PARK. If you say you will pay them, PAY THEM.

Be a problem solver—Mom taught her children to figure out how to make it work. Whether it was a problem of transportation, finances, health, childcare, or whatever, the approach was “how can we,” not “we can’t.”

Love is a verb—Mom’s love was never in question. We received her love not only with hugs, kisses, smiles, and laughs, but with her every action. Our mother taught us to cook, clean, get stains out, sew on buttons, share, drive, use a map, read, and more because she loved us and wanted the best for us. She wanted us to enjoy life, but also to be ready for the challenges of the world.

Make every minute count—Helen loved and taught and worked with intention. At age 79, she left this world too soon. She left few material things like clothes, jewelry, and books. Most importantly, Helen left values in her children that will hopefully live on in them and the people they touch. There is a little Helen Walker in all six of her children.

Always say thank you—Thank you, mom for teaching us how to live. And thank you for taking the time to read this blog. You are the reason this blog exists. Thank you for your support.

What are some lessons you learned from your mother? Please comment below.