What is Your DIY Legacy?

Who influenced your creativity and Do-it-Yourself enthusiasm?  Was it your dad?  A shop teacher?  Or a neighbor that was into cool projects? And the obvious next questions:  Who will you influence?  Who will receive your DIY legacy?

We are born with characteristics like creativity and the ability to work with our hands, yet those aptitudes must nurture into true talents.  Most of the time nurturing is by a caring adult with a similar ability, or one who has the vision to see the aptitude.  Who are the people that influence you?

This post is about Do-It-Yourself talents, yet it can just as well be any aptitude.

A Father?  Or Mother?

After the passing of my father a few years ago my mother gave me some of his old tools.  It was fun to think about projects created, but his legacy, to me, is not the projects, rather, the education.  What he really taught me is beyond how to use tools and build stuff.  He taught me how to think about building.  He taught me that I can build it, whatever it is, by learning and using the right tools and knowledge.

On the other hand, my mother was not so much a teacher of DIY as an incubator.  Yes, she taught me to sew, which is awesome, but it’s more.  She put up with my “creativity” and often ran interference when my father wanted to beat me silly for taking something all apart.  She too I must thank!  Big Time!  I’m guessing many of you tell a similar story.  Now that’s a legacy!

The Legacy Of A Teacher?

As I think about those who influenced my do-it-yourself attitude, a shop teacher also comes to mind.  He was a big guy, with a booming voice.  And when he saw something unsafe in the shop he would beller from wherever he was a resounding “WRONG!!”  Everyone in the room would immediately check to see that they were being safe, as the teacher quickly moved to the student that needed some reminders.

This teacher ran the wood and plastics shop, and his partner ran the metals shop.  I enjoyed both, and I especially enjoyed the freedom and instruction they gave in helping me build crazy stuff.  Those two taught me a ton about tools, and especially about how to do things right.

At another school, the welding instructor allowed me to bring in a project – a race vehicle for extra shop time.  He said, “I have to be here anyway so you might as well get some extra practice.”  I think he liked teaching stuff beyond the class, and I think he liked it when students want to learn more.  He taught me how to weld engine blocks and repair castings among other things.

A Mentor?

One summer as a teen I engaged in a massive vehicle restoration project.  That year, my father was in and out of the hospital most of the summer, so the project was a welcome distraction.  I didn’t have all the knowledge or skills necessary.  However, there was a mechanic that lived down around the corner.  He was a cut-up — the kind of guy you just don’t want your children around.  Yet, Mike took an interest in my project and would come by periodically to answer questions and give direction.  He is a hero, who proves a project is about much more than a thing or the cost.  Mike fundamentally changed the direction of my life by teaching and encouraging me.

I can also thank all the farmers in the area that I worked for.  If you want someone that can fix anything from nothing, or create brilliance from garbage, find an old-time farmer.  Those guys are genius in the category of do-it-yourself.  I spent a lot of my teenage life working on a few neighbor’s farms — while unknowingly learning a ton!

How many friends have I also done projects with?  We learn from each other, because Do it Yourself is NOT doing it all by yourself.

What is Your Legacy?

Who will you influence?  And, to whom will you pass bits of your knowledge, experience and do-it-yourself enthusiasm?

I want to be like Mike.  So, in all the busyness, I keep taking an interest (especially in youth), and keep sharing time. “Hands on” and “Do-it-Yourself” is not as common in our now throwaway economy, yet we can make a difference a little at a time.  I admire these folks because they gave me a priceless gift.  I hope I can give the same . . . can you?  It’s not a chore, it’s fulfillment.

Now my oldest son bought a fixer-upper-house, and now has quite a collection of his own essential tools.  The house is beautiful now, and I love it.  What a pleasure to see him advance in his DIY skills.  He’s way better than I now in some skills — like drywall.

Hopefully you are also planning to pass along a bit of yourself.  Whether it be a Do-it-Yourself Legacy or something else, then someday maybe a kid like me will call you a hero too.


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