Lessons From a Third-Grade Dropout is the kind of book you can read two or three times and glean something different each time. Lessons is packed with so much commonsense wisdom that one reading is just not enough to get all that the book has to offer. This is not a book that you should just read. Rather, it should be read and then intentionally worked and incorporated into your life.
Lessons has a conversational, down-to-earth tone. You won’t need a dictionary to understand it. However, you will need a pen, notepad, and maybe a box of tissues. The author doesn’t preach or teach the lessons per se. Instead, he illustrates them with stories from his own life and, of course, the life of his father (who is the real star of the book).
Rick’s dad, Roger Marion Rigsby was a third-grade dropout, but he possessed wisdom and character rarely exhibited by the best and the brightest college graduates. Rick has masterfully captured his dad’s wisdom and shares it in a way that is engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. Rick doesn’t shove God or religion down your throat, but the principles are biblical and solid.
Below are just a few of the lessons I gleaned from the book.
First of all, kind deeds are never lost. Roger Rigsby took kindness to a level that was nearly angelic (or greater). Rick says of his dad: “His philosophy was, you don’t give based on what you have or don’t have. You give when there is a need.” Not only did he give, he gave his best, which meant that sometimes he was left with second best (or less). Rick suggests a weeklong, hopefully, to become a lifelong, experiment. He encourages readers to engage in 10 specific activities that exhibit kindness. I’ll give you four:
1. Say “thank you” more than [you say] “I.”
2. Say either “yes, please” or “no, thank you.”
3. Talk less about yourself, and listen more.
4. Help those who lack the power to reward you.
If you would just read and practice the principles laid out in chapter 1, it would be worth your investment.
But there’s more.
Rick’s dad exhibited such discipline that he always showed up for his appointments (including work) a full hour early. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were consistently 60 minutes early? Yet, if you are like me, right now you are internally fighting this concept and coming up with all the reasons why it will not work. I encourage you to get the book and see how it worked for Rick’s dad and for Rick, once he finally embraced it.
Rick suffered a tragedy that compelled him to search his heart deeply and tap into the lessons he learned from his dad. You’ll have to read the book for the details, but he convinced himself that he was just a big man at more than 400 pounds, and not morbidly obese as his doctor said. No one holds a recent widower accountable, and he liked it that way. He says: “I went through the motions. I choreographed each mediocre step and scripted every predictable response.” However, he was forced to look at his life. That process is outlined in the final chapter of the book. It’s a wonderful chapter borne of pain, grief, and questionings.
Your specific circumstances may be different, but at some point, every one of us is faced with a tough life situation, and we have to decide whether we will meltdown and merely exist in a place of mediocrity and use our tragedy as an excuse, or if we will stand. It took a while, but ultimately Rick chose to stand. He adeptly tells his story, weaves it with powerful lessons from his dad, and challenges readers to stand in the face of adversity.
Rick Rigsby’s Lessons From a Third-Grade Dropout is noteworthy for sure. My suggestion is that you read the entire book, then take each chapter and focus on it for a couple of weeks. Some of the lessons may take longer than others to incorporate into your life, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll be a better Christian and therefore a better person for really working on this book instead of just reading it.
Originally published in Message Magazine’s January/February 2009 Edition by Loretta Parker Spivey