Role models for a caring lifestyle

People are often asked, “Who is your role model?” Answers run the gamut from a famous athlete, actor, or politician to a teacher, community leader, or family member. 

I don’t have one role model. But I enjoy finding things that I’d like to emulate in people. I guess you could say I have a conglomeration of role models. And that’s always been true. When I was a eleven, my role models included Sister James (the Dominican nun who taught at my school), my mother, and Gidget!

These days, I still love finding people to admire, people who show the way to something I aspire to. Sometimes, they even enlighten me about what I should aspire to.  When it comes to living a Care to Keep lifestyle, several people come to mind. 

headshot of an elderly couple

I was in my twenties when I met my in-laws. (You may remember Helen from a previous post, when I described how she waxed her washer and dryer!) They were frugal but invested in quality items. Don would take the time to research the best appliance, lawn equipment, and car. And once he made that investment, he took perfect care of his things. He’s one of the few people I’d ever met who read manuals cover to cover. (Then he’d store them in ziploc bags in a handy location.)

One fall, I stopped over to find him emptying and cleaning their lawnmower for winter storage. Honestly, at the time I was completely unaware of the need to prep a lawn mower for its hibernation in the garage. But I was intrigued and impressed. I watched him wipe off the last bit of cut grass and dirt. Then he hung the manual on the handle (he ran an S hook through the ziploc bag) and covered the mower with a canvas tarp before he tucked it in the corner of their (very tidy) garage. What a respectful way to own something, I thought. 

When it comes to being resourceful, my mother provided both my nature and nurture! Out of necessity and with an enormous dose of diligence and creativity, she fashioned a lovely, cozy apartment and dressed and groomed my brother and me so that there was never any mistaking that we were well cared for.

Mom always starched and ironed our school uniforms. She taught us to polish our shoes, and she religiously trimmed our nails and styled our hair. (Anyone else remember rag curls?) Caring for people isn’t the same as caring for things to make them last, of course. But it reflects a similarly mindful, respectful, caring approach to living, I think. To decorate our apartment on a budget of almost nothing, Mom would hang tea towels in the kitchen window and paint-by-number pictures in the living room. And, of course, everything was always clean and tidy. (That’s her in the first picture, with one of our daughters.)

Smiling woman wearing a blue blouse - one of my role models

Up until the age of 84, my dear friend Ona lived in the farmhouse where she was born. She taught me many practical skills. I learned to sew a quilt on a treadle machine, can corn, and make gingerbread houses with her patient guidance.

But Ona also taught me scores of intangible things, such as the importance of self-reliance and the power of community. (Ona took me to my first quilting bee, at the local Mennonite Church. “Bee” is an apt description. I can still remember the buzzing of work and chatting, the gentle guidance of skilled hands and the inclusion in a project much bigger than myself.)

Today, there are friends, family members, and even strangers who inspire me every day. 

Our children each inspire me with their love of home and desire to make it a reflection of who they are. My friend Chris inspires me with her thoughtfulness about tackling and planning projects in her home (she teaches me to take my time). My friend Mary inspires me with her diligence and enthusiasm for taking care of — and continually renewing — her home and yard (she shows me the lovely results of attentiveness to the needs of a home). Shylah at our local plant shop inspires me with her enthusiasm for designing with plants (she encourages me to celebrate my love of plants with careful tending). And the woman I spotted at the grocers last week carefully examining the tomatoes before picking the best one inspired me to take the time to choose carefully, too. 

Of course, there are role models for all kinds of values besides taking good care — parenting role models, business role models, health and fitness role models, and role models for living a kind life, for example. I’m always on the lookout! How about you? Do you have role models? Who are they, and what kind of inspiration do they provide for you?

You might also like: Imperfection and When your home’s needs exceed your budget.

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