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What’s Your Idol?

AKA “The Things You Can Learn From a Teenager”

Last month I wrote about integrating business and personal goals, thinking I would write about goals for one month and then move on. But wait, there’s more!

I have three sisters, each living several states away. Out of those three sisters, one of them has battled cancer twice and won. The second sister has just started cancer treatment and things are looking good as well. Today, with cancer affecting almost every family, ours is fortunate to have seen a positive response to treatment.

My story starts with my second sister. She was diagnosed with cancer and scheduled to undergo radiation therapy. This sister and her husband have two adopted children: a 13-year-old boy named Stephen and his 14-year-old sister. Both of these kids have been homeschooled, and bless my sister’s patience and perseverance as Stephen is very bright but has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Recently, my mother decided she wanted to visit them and stay for a few weeks. Since my mother lives in our area and no longer travels by herself, she asked me to drive her the 1,000-some miles. It wasn’t even a question; she’s my mother and I enjoy driving. Once there, the topic came up as to Stephen going back home with me. Since I volunteered last year to have Stephen stay with us for a week or two anyway, it wasn’t a problem. Having one less teenager in the house while their mom was undergoing cancer treatment 75 miles away from home each day would make it easier on my sister. Little did I know that a couple of weeks would turn into 6 weeks…

While Stephen takes medication for ADHD, his doctor cut him back to a “summertime” dosage, and Stephen was going to be a very “busy” young man during his stay. Taking care of Stephen at times was like handling a mad scientist on the loose…

The drive back to Bismarck with Stephen was somewhat uneventful. Stephen’s a car guy and knows all the 0-60 times, horsepower specs, etc. of most vehicles. He really enjoyed learning all the features of Uncle Jim’s car, especially the electronic touch screen navigation and radio controls. Like
with most newer vehicles, there are lots of electronic buttons to push. (And Stephen also figured out a couple of Uncle Jim’s buttons to push and kept this on file too.)

Once in Bismarck, Stephen hit it off pretty well with our 17-year-old daughter. They have a few things in common including a love of video gaming. Towards the end of Stephen’s 6-week visit, they were more like brother and sister. Close at times but also having teenage sibling disagreements.

Since I have daughters but have not had a son, I was going to take this opportunity and do “guy” things with Stephen.

One of the first things we did was go fishing. Knowing Stephen’s level of patience would be relatively short, we went to a lake with plenty of easy-to-catch fish. The fish cooperated and Stephen who had never fished before was having a great time. Then after the first 50 fish, it was time to go. The newness had worn off, and the call of video gaming was all that was heard.

Another day we went cycling. After we reached an area about 4 miles away from our starting point,
the pedal came off Stephen’s bike. The threads to put the pedal back on were damaged, so I was unable to maneuver a roadside repair. Uncle Jim traded bikes with Stephen and we limped back to our starting point, with me riding a bike that was too small and only powered by one pedal. At the end of the ride, Stephen was ready for his tablet and video games.

Since Uncle Jim still has a job to go to once in a while, we decided that Stephen could work at the store and earn some extra money. His goal was to earn enough money for camp this summer. One of the first things I had Stephen do was vacuum the floor. “That will keep him busy for a while,” I thought. Wrong! Over 5,000 square feet of carpet was vacuumed in less than 10 minutes. Then we asked him to put advertising inserts into bags.
After about 20 bags, Stephen was “done.”
I explained that we put most purchases in these bags, and each day requires well over 50 of them. He questioned “why” and “was it time to go home yet?” Ah, yes, the video games were beckoning.

Knowing how much Stephen is into cars, one night we went to the car races. Lots of anticipation and excitement for the first couple of hours, then we lost Stephen’s attention. Another night, I volunteered Stephen and I to serve at a local free dinner. He had a great time serving those in need and working with other volunteers, including an older woman. The older woman happened to be 18 years old, was willing to talk with Stephen, and was passing out cookies. Stephen was in love for days. Video games did not call Stephen’s name quite as much, as he had a beautiful distraction bringing him cookies. Uncle Jim didn’t want to encourage this type of distraction, but it did make him smile.

Stephen’s very obvious attraction to the older woman and the fun I had with it got me thinking that there must be something in addition to girls and video games that Stephen is interested in. As it turns out, his mechanical aptitude is great. In asking Stephen about his goals, Stephen told me he either wants to be an engineer or a pastor. With his mechanical aptitude, interest and knowledge of the Bible, and his tenacity, Stephen will do well at either one if he can set his goal and focus.

To give Stephen something to work for, we decided that in addition to summer camp, Stephen could use a laptop computer for his homework and gaming. The goal was set and Stephen eventually earned enough money to pay for both summer camp and purchase the laptop. In order to keep Stephen focused, I put him under the mentorship of our younger vacuum technician, and Stephen worked on vacuums we were donating to charity. While focus was an issue at times, Stephen kept his purpose in mind and put in the hours required to reach his goal. The mentoring technician received a “combat pay” bonus to compensate for his loss of income on completed repairs.

Like any 13-year-old boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, keeping Stephen on task was a job all in itself. There were distractions including the day Stephen – with the “help” of one of our sewing technicians – hooked up a lightbulb to an ohmmeter to see if it worked. The whole plan seemed great until Stephen slipped with the clip on the bulb, tripped the breaker, and took out the electricity to our entire service department. Oops!

In the end, our family really enjoyed having Stephen move in for 6 weeks. It gave me the opportunity to temporarily have a 13-year-old
son, with lots of experiences to go along with it.
I was also able to see the growth in Stephen as we went through good times and bad with his video game obsession. We set a goal for Stephen, and he reached it by working enough to pay for summer camp and purchase his laptop computer. Whether it’s Engineer Stephen, Pastor Stephen, or something entirely different, if Stephen can focus on his goals, he is going to do very well in life.

My experience with our houseguest and the presence of video games reminded me of our idols and how they affect us.

What’s your idol?

• Money

• Food

• Work

• Gambling
• Sports • Alcohol/Drugs
• Electronics  

It seems many of us have idols. An idol is anything that consumes us and takes our focus away from what’s really important. Idols can take our focus away from family, work, self-care, or God.

Setting goals and working towards them can break addictions to your idols. Determine your idol and then determine your plan of action to reach your goals.

FOCUS on your GOALS! NOT on your idols!

REMINDER! If your store is doing something similar to our Community Meal Project please share! We would like to acknowledge you and spread the word. Your business should be a part of making your community a better place to live. E-mail your comments, ideas, and suggestions to jimbarnhardt@msn.com

Jim BarnhardtJim Barnhardt,
J & R Vacuum and Sewing
VDTA•SDTA Board Member

Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional & SQE Professional, August 2017