#30: Do It Yourself

flashlight 33





Many parents coddle and pamper their children way too much these days and, as a result, these kids are becoming far too dependent on others… and maybe that’s one of the reasons that so many people are increasingly relying on the government to solve all of their problems.
What happened to the American spirit of independence and self-reliance?
It’s a bad trend because kids need to be taught to take responsibility for themselves.
I am friends with a woman who is a single mother and her 10-year old son was given a school assignment to build a flashlight from scratch for his science class.
Her young boy knew of the obligation for at least two or three weeks but, of course, he let this responsibility go until the very last night before the project was due and he hadn’t even started to work on it yet.
So, how did this ambitious young man tackle the problem?
He started whining and complaining to his mother…
“I don’t know how to do it… This is half of our grade… I’m gonna flunk science this semester… I’m not going to graduate now.”
Oh, woe is me…
But, like I said, she’s a single mom and there’s no man in the kid’s life at the moment, so she called me up and asked me if I would be willing to bail her son out of the predicament that he had put himself in.
I felt bad and agreed to help, figuring it wouldn’t take me all that long.
The boy’s mother dropped off a lightbulb, a battery, and a couple of wires that her kid’s teacher had handed out to the class and said, “Thanks, Paul, I really appreciate it.”
I went down the my workbench in the basement and started working on the project just before dinner… and worked on it right through dinnertime and all night long until just after 3:30 in the morning, without even a minute’s break to blow my nose.
I made the flashlight casing out of a plastic PVC pipe that I found after a long search in the cellar… I cut it down to size, I sanded the edges, then I carefully measured and drilled a series of holes in it. When I finished doing that, I made some more measurements and constructed a bracket from scratch to hold the battery, which I worked on and manipulated until it finally fit snugly inside the housing. Then I secured the assembly to the case with screws, after which I proceeded to attach the bulb and lens to the casing as well. Next I had to go through all my spare parts to find an on/off switch that I could incorporate and drilled a hole to place the switch in the housing and firmly attach it. After that I carefully fastened all of the wires to the components and then soldered them securely at each one of the connections. Following that step, I had to drive to an all-night Home Depot to find a PVC cap to seal the back of the housing and couldn’t find one that was exactly the right size, so I had to sand and file and scrape the cover until it eventually fit. Then I had to test the flashlight to make sure all the connections were correct before I started to decorate the outside, which took more sanding and priming and painting and clear coating before I was finally finished.
I was totally exhausted, and only got a couple hours sleep, before I was abruptly jolted awake by the sound of my phone ringing at 6:00am.
It was the kid’s mother, in a panic.
“Paul, I forgot to tell you, my son has to give a presentation to his class today and he needs to explain in detail how he built the flashlight.”
I was still half asleep, but that got my attention.
“What do you mean, he needs to describe how HE built the flashlight? He didn’t build the flashlight, I built the fucking flashlight for him… and it took me all night to do it!”
“Yes, I know Paul, but he has to show his class how he… I mean you… did it.”
So I had to drag myself out of bed, make myself a cup of coffee, and transcribe the step by step process of everything I did, along with a detailed series of drawings and diagrams to accompany the narration, so the kid could explain to his class how I built the flashlight that he was going to receive credit for.
The mother and son picked up the flashlight, and my illustrated description of the process, at 7:00am on their way to school.
One week later…
I got a text that said, “THANK YOU, PAUL!” along with a picture of the kid’s report card.
He got an ‘A.’
On it, the teacher wrote, “Very well done! You are very creative!”
As I read her words, my reaction was… “No, he’s not creative!… I’M creative!… He didn’t do shit! The only thing the kid created was a bunch of excuses!”
Then she wrote, “It is obvious that you put a lot of effort into this project.”
I was bullshit… “No, he didn’t! I worked my ass off while he put all his effort into playing videogames and being mesmerized by some new app on his iPod, instead of doing his homework!”
His teacher continued… “It’s apparent that this project took a lot of thought and imagination.”
I couldn’t help myself and yelled out, “No, it didn’t take any thought and imagination on his part! Do you want to know what it took? I’ll tell you exactly what it took… It took one lazy kid, one sympathetic mother, and one stupid comedian who couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough to talk his way out of it. That’s what it took!”
The teacher’s final remark was, “I hoped you learned something from this lesson.”
Ya, right.
The only thing this kid learned was that, if he procrastinates and waits until the last minute, then starts whining like a little baby, someone else will do his job for him.
I wondered… Is this kid going to be dependent like this for the rest of his life?
To be honest with you, a part of me hopes he is.
Years from now, I want him to call me up on his wedding night and whimper …
“Uncle Paul, I’m on my honeymoon and don’t know what to do. I need your help.”
And, as I frantically reach for my toothbrush, deodorant and a bottle of Viagra, I’ll tell him… “Don’t worry, I’m leaving now… Just keep her busy and I’ll be there as soon as I can!”