Life… Breath…A Beating Heart. These are the very essence of what make us human. While human life may be built off of learning through experiences, many times we overlook the seniors in our community through which invaluable lessons and skills can be learned.
Don Schlichting certainly is a diamond in the rough and has paved a tremendous path in this world. Don was born in Oakland, Nebraska in the old hospital, or as he recalls, “a house at the end of town.” Like many in this era, Don was born into a family of relative poverty. The USA was beginning to rebound from the effects of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and his family supported themselves on a about $18 per month. Growing up on a diversified farm, majority of this income came from the sales of eggs, meat, and butter in town. Don reminisced, “I was very fortunate to have parents that were willing to put in the effort to make things go. There were a lot of soup lines in the city but I never had to worry about that because we had ample food.” This is something not very many families could say.
When Don grew old enough, he attended a one-room schoolhouse. Don would regularly walk to school, occasionally riding his father’s horse-drawn cart. Many may think that the smaller school would become more lax, however, he recalls that his teacher expected much of the students and they had to deliver. “You know, that’s a good way to live in this world,” he said. “If you never have anyone expecting much of you, you never accomplish anything.”
Don was never one to be lazy. His first job was as a school janitor, and he continued this job until approached by his father with the opportunity to milk dairy cattle. “One of the most important things my dad ever gave me was the chance to work for myself,” Don interposed.
In 1952 Don was drafted into the US army because of the Korean War. Don took 3 months of combat and cartography training. This career took him across the US and even overseas. “When I got to Germany there was block after block of rubble.” Don recalled, “I thought to myself, this isn’t going to be a good post. I’m an American Soldier and the Germans will hate me. It turned out not to be true.” After Don’s draft ended, he milked cattle; working 14-16 hour days. He met his wife Carol soon after and they happily married in 1959. Don lends the warning, “Be very careful of who you choose to spend your life with and who you associate yourself with because that can make or break you.”
Don’s resounding advice is: “Don’t be afraid of experiences – good, bad, or otherwise, because if you don’t attempt to experience it how will you ever know if you like it? Every experience is going to teach you something.” Hard work, dedication, and the drive to experience new things will allow you to achieve everything and anything you have ever dreamed of. Besides, isn’t chasing your dreams the essence of life?