My dad was a “builder” of many things – his business, his community, his faith, his family. He was a barber by trade and for most of his life he was in his shop six days a week, year in and year out. People came to him to have their hair cut, yes, but just as much for the safety of his quiet ways, listening ear, and kind words of wisdom. On Sundays, his day of rest, he served in many capacities in his local congregation, building his community as he taught lessons, visited the sick, balanced the books, swept the floors, or whatever else was needed. He rose early in the morning, said his prayers, and set an example to us, his kids, of starting the day contemplating his life and his relationship with God. Day after day, he built family strength by his patience, firm but gentle ways, and twinkling smile.
Dad kept meticulous notes about his life, from the funerals over which he presided (112) to his barbershop accounts.
One day, I was looking though a notebook he kept in his early twenties while he was living in California, doing service work for his church. I found this poem tucked into the pages:
“I watched them tear a building down,
A gang of men in a lonely town,
With a ho-heave-ho and a mighty yell,
They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.
“I asked their foreman, ‘are these men skilled?’
‘Men you’d hire if you had to build?’
He gave a laugh and said, ‘no, indeed.’
‘Common labor is all I need.’
‘Why I can easily wreck in a day or two’
‘What builders have taken years to do.’
Then I thought to myself as I went on my way
Which of these roles do I try to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life with rules and square,
Shaping my deeds to a well made plan,
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?”
I wondered how much the trajectory of Dad’s life had been shaped by this image and I started to reflect on my own life. I remember thinking that I hoped my life reflects the type of positive life that my father lived and built without tearing down.
As parents we have the chance to be builders in the lives of our children. Let’s take a step back from all of our busyness and ask ourselves what we can do to be builders in our children’s lives.
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