Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just a Piece of Paper

Since Mom and Dad grew up during the depression, there were not a lot of opportunities open to them.   Going to college was just for rich kids and not everyone graduated from high school.  Some kids dropped out to help support their families.

Dad was one year younger than mom.  He proposed to her when he was 16 and Mom was 17.  Mom wanted to graduate so she asked him to wait a year while she finished high school.  Dad finished his junior year.  They married on schedule and Dad never graduated.

Times were hard.  They didn’t have much.  Mom said they lived on love.  Dad was a hard worker.  Little by little he became a successful man. 

Dad also loved to learn.  He tried lots of things, and when he had the time and resources, he began branching out.   He read a lot and took  classes here and there.  He became successful at business and held a public office.  He was well-respected in our community and some sought his advice.

Though Dad had earned the respect of all who knew him, he lacked one thing: a high school diploma.

One day an old friend called my dad.  Dad’s friend held a government position and he was helping to choose an ambassador for India.  He recommended my dad.  “I don’t know anyone who is more qualified for the job.  How long would it take you to get ready?”

“I’d need a week,” chuckled my dad.  He was kidding of course, but you can sense his eagerness. What an opportunity.

One week turned into two then a month.  Several months passed.  Eventually, Dad called his friend to check out the score.  As Dad suspected, the lack of a diploma was the one thing that stood in the way.

We didn’t move to India.  My dad was well-educated by every standard but one.  Some people think that a diploma is just a piece of paper, but what a powerful piece of paper it is.  Having a diploma, or not having one, can make a critical difference in your life. 

I think of my dad as self-educated.  He was always learning.  Even though he learned a lot in the school of hard knocks, he valued education.  He encouraged us to get as much education as possible.  I thank him for that.   All of us children went to college, and eventually Mom did too. 

Education opens doors.  There are many kinds of education, but without a diploma some doors remain closed. 

Linda Garner

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