Family Talk: Son sees importance of having a big heart
This is the last in a short series of letters I wrote to my dad, reminding him of the things he taught me.
I was talking to the kids tonight, at the supper table, about one of my summer jobs during college. Remember when I worked at the auto parts warehouse? Whew! What a dirty, hot, sweaty and looong summer that was. I recall the pay was pretty good but the days were long, the work was hard and there was no way to get to the warehouse by bus. I didn't own a car and you left too early for your job to drop me off. The only alternative was for me to ride my bike to and from work. I'd get up extra early, pedal all the way to work, labor hard all day, then pedal home.
The ride in the cool morning wasn't bad, but by the end of the day, after working hard, the bike ride home seemed torturous. I'd arrive home hot, tired and grumpy. I couldn't even talk civilly to anyone until after I hit the shower.
One night, after a week or so of that routine, I stumbled out of the warehouse at 5:30 to discover my bike was gone. Stolen! Or so I thought. That's when I heard the familiar horn toot of your Chevy and looked across the parking lot to see you sitting there, my bike sticking out of the trunk, tied down with a strap, and you motioning to me to get in. “I thought you could use a ride home”, you said. True words. And every night after that, you'd get home from your own hard day of labor, grab a bite to eat, and head down to pick me up so I wouldn't have to drag myself up the hills of Hillsdale Avenue.
Did I ever tell you enough how much I appreciated you doing that? Probably not enough. That was the kind of thing you did on a regular basis. For me and for others. You picked us up when we needed a lift. You chipped in to help out, often without anyone asking. Many times you moved households of furniture for others. Fixed their broken appliances. Repaired their roofs. Shoveled snow off their sidewalks. Set up tables for church dinners and got there early to rev up your 30-gallon coffee pot. Not only that, you spoke words of encouragement when we were down. You cheered our spirits. You picked us up when we needed it.
What possessed you to help people like that? What caused you to pick up a tired, young warehouse worker, night after night, so he wouldn't have to wearily pedal his bike back home? I think I know.
It was your heart, Dad. You have an enlarged heart. No, not the kind doctors need to fix. The kind that is filled with love that prompts selfless deeds. I'm really glad you have an enlarged heart, and I hope it's genetic. I hope, years from now, when my kids write about me, they'll say I had my father's heart.
Thanks for picking me up, dad. Not only on the days after work in the auto parts warehouse but on every day I've lived.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org