The Cowboy Hat

Blog Action Day

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This year’s topic is poverty. Finally, this post is deeply personal and not related to lean or six sigma in any way.

I’ll never forget the day I broke my Mom’s heart. It was the morning of my 7th birthday.

My parents separated when I was only a few years old and my 3 siblings and I lived with my Mom throughout the school year and spent the summers with my Dad in Canada.

My Mom, who I love more than any woman on earth – short of my wife – worked at the phone company and didn’t make much money. In fact, it’s safe to say we were poor.

But back to the morning of my birthday.

I Want to Be a Cowboy!

As a young boy I loved watching Roy Rogers on Saturday mornings and wanted to be a cowboy more than anything. I dreamed of one day riding my horse through the prairies battling the bad guys day and night.

There was just one problem. I didn’t have a cowboy hat.

So, being the young problem solver that I was, I asked for one. It was the only birthday present I asked for and I was sure I was going to get it.

The morning of my birthday had finally come and I remember bursting from my bed and running to find my Mom. As I came around the corner I saw her carrying a large bag.

A Big Problem

I’ll never forget the huge smile my Mom had on her face as she handed me the bag. I tore the bag open and there it was. My cowboy hat.

But there was a problem. A big problem.

It was obvious to me that this particular cowboy hat was not new. It also didn’t have the cool shape to it that my brother’s cowboy hat had.

My Mom explained how she had bought it from a co-worker since she just couldn’t afford to buy a new one. I stood in silence holding the hat in my hand with my head hung low.

Then I did it.

I looked at my Mom with disgust and threw the hat on the ground and ran for my room. I was in total disbelief that my dream of being a real cowboy would not happen on this particular day.

Truly Blessed

Eventually I got over it and came to realize how truly blessed I was to have the things I did. I also later apologized – more than once – to my Mom for my despicable behavior.

Looking back on my childhood I vividly remember the sacrifices my Mom made for us – including sleeping on the couch in order for her kids to have their own bedrooms.

I remember how tired she looked when she came home from work only to find the mess my siblings and I created in the house.

I remember having bad dreams and bringing my blanket out and laying beside my mom as she slept on the couch. She would hold my hand and all my fears and troubles just melted away.

I also remember how I would curl up with her after she came home exhausted from work. She would often heat up a frozen burrito for her dinner even though we kids always ate something much better.

What Poverty Taught Me

So, while it would be easy for me to sit here and say how poverty ravaged my young life I wouldn’t be telling the truth. You see, my big brother probably said it best when he explained, “We weren’t poor… we were just short of cash.”

So, the way I look at it, while we were technically facing the problem of poverty I now realize those years formed me into the man I am today.

They taught me that no amount of money is more important than love and compassion.

They taught me that no amount of money is more important than holding your child’s hand in the middle of the night when they wake up from a bad dream (as timing would have it I have a lot of work to do with this one as I have a child getting out of bed all the time these days).

And those years taught me that no amount of money is more important than being truly thankful for the abundant blessings our mighty and powerful God sends us, even a used cowboy hat.

Thank you Mom for all you’ve taught me. I know I can never repay you, but I promise to die trying.