What My Parents Taught Me
by Jefferson David Tant
Vanguard Magazine, November 1982
All parents teach their children — consciously, subconsciously, positively, negatively, by example, by word. Children are even taught to be what their parents fail to teach. In our generation, many parents have abdicated their teaching roles to TV, schools, their children’s peers, and other influences. I am thankful to have had parents who cared enough to teach me right from wrong and how to live. May I share with you some of the things they taught me:
This was more by example than by word. My parents did not set the example of smoking. I never saw a can of beer in their hands, nor was any kind of alcohol kept in the house. I never heard a word of profanity fall from their lips, nor did I ever see them go about in shorts, swimsuits, or other forms of immodest dress. This has had its influence upon me, and I am thankful that I do not even know what beer tastes like, nor have I ever owned a pair of shorts, etc.
Discipline takes many forms, both positive and negative. My parents loved me enough to apply the hand, the belt, and the switch when necessary. They loved me enough to teach me the discipline of responsibility in making my own bed, mowing the lawn, washing the car, and I learned early how to operate a vacuum cleaner. My first job was delivering the daily newspaper route somewhere along about the sixth grade.
Discipline is also a part of the rule of self-ruling our attitudes, emotions, will. I will ever be grateful for a valuable lesson I learned from my father during the difficult times when the Lord’s church was being divided over institutionalism. During this period my father was the editor of a religious journal, the Gospel Guardian, was thus somewhat of a public figure, and was the target of much abuse from some with whom he differed. He was lied about, cheated in some business arrangements, reviled, had meetings canceled, and was abused in various other ways. Never once did I see my father display anger or a spirit of revenge and retaliation. Never once did he abuse his position as editor to lash back at his detractors. I am thankful for this lesson in self-discipline.
Love for God and His Church
I never remember missing a service for some school activity, or for homework, or for a date, or for company. I was taught to put God and his kingdom first. Not only did we regularly attend the local congregation of which we were members, but we often went to gospel meetings in other places where there were opportunities to meet other preachers and to make friends among the young people of other congregations.
Thrift and Economy
Preachers were not always supported as well as they are in many places today, and we had some lean times. I can remember the time my father preached for one of the largest congregations in the land. One of the elders was an oil millionaire who told my father that his philosophy in business was to buy the very best product at the lowest possible price. He felt the same responsibility to the church — to get the very best preaching possible for the lowest possible salary. During this time we sold our only car in order to meet debts. I do not remember feeling ashamed to walk to church or to ride the bus around town.
My mother has always been a saving person, even to the point of saving burnt matches. Our gas cooking stove had pilot lights that automatically ignited the top burners, but the oven still had to be lighted with a match. I still remember my mother lighting the oven with a match and then quickly blowing it out. The next time, she would take that burnt match, stick it into the pilot light to ignite it, and then use it to light the oven. This may be a bit extreme in saving, but it made an impression on my young mind.
Hospitality — Both to Friends and Strangers
My mother has always been an excellent cook and we were glad to share her skills with others. As a child in Chicago, I remember a hungry tramp coming to our door and my mother fixing him a meal. I don’t know if that was my first lesson in helping those who were in need, but it is the first I remember. A few years later in Oklahoma City, we took into our home a young couple injured in an auto accident until they recuperated enough to continue on their journey. There were others who lived in our home — women whose husbands were off in World War II, unwed mothers who needed a home for a time, and young bachelors who boarded with us to be a part of a family of Christians. How precious to me are the memories of the many fine Christians who have been in our home and my contacts with countless preachers of the gospel whose lives have also touched mine. How I treasure the years my dear Grandmother Tant made her home with us and the valuable lessons I learned from her.
Yes, my parents taught me . . . these and many other things. Thank you, Mother… Thank you, Papa. Because of these lessons, I believe I have a confident hope of an eternal home, and I have tried to share these things with your grandchildren. I am not very good at expressing my deep feelings for those who are closest to me, but I hope these words can in some small way express my love for Fanning Yater Tant and Helen Elizabeth Gotto Tant. I consider myself fortunate to have been your son. May God bless you as you continue to serve him in the sunset years of life.