My dad once told me about a co-worker in his twenties who approached him (then in his late fifties) and said to him “There’s something different about you. You don’t seem to ever get angry or curse, you’re always nice and honest and respectful to everyone. What is it about you?” My dad then had a wide open opportunity to talk about his faith in God and how Jesus had changed him. He gave the young man a bible and invited him to a lunchtime bible study that he started with some other Christians at his office.
My dad’s life was filled with stories of impacting and encouraging others.
Four years ago I stood in a receiving line at my father’s funeral and was in awe at the number of people that showed up. My parents had retired and moved from Pennsylvania to coastal North Carolina. Many people from up north couldn’t make the trip and yet there were still hundreds of people in attendance. The stories and comments we heard showed us how much my dad had influenced and touched the lives of those around him. It was the evidence of a life lived with faithfulness, respect and integrity.
One woman shook my hand and smiled, “Your father always brightened up my day. I’m a widow and get lonely sometimes and he would ride his bike through the neighborhood and stop by to say hello. He’d tell me a silly joke to make me laugh. He may have only stopped for a few minutes, but it made a difference.”
One relative with a family of his own shared that he learned how to be a faithful husband and father from observing my dad. A long-time friend and colleague of his was in tears and trembling, telling my brothers and I that “your dad was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.” I stood speechless and just cried.
When we talk about what it means to be successful in this world, we often debate career success over enjoying time with family. Somehow, my dad was able to have both. He was never wealthy but managed to work his way up the corporate ladder while still being a family man and maintaining his integrity. He didn’t lie or cheat or deceive to get ahead and was known for his honesty and solid business practices.
He didn’t grow up with a father himself, and during high school he took a job in the mail room of a large corporation to help support his mother and younger sister. After high school he kept working while taking college courses at night. Over the next couple decades, he went from the mail room to the executive suite…and never missed a family meal and was always around to help us with our homework. My dad had vowed to be there for his kids because his own father wasn’t.
He loved sports, and not just the way most people enjoy it as a hobby or escape. It was an opportunity to be a part of a community, to share in teamwork and achievement. He had to sacrifice playing sports in high school since he was working. So when had had his own kids, he poured his passion into volunteering to coach. Having three boys who were all active in multiple sports, my parents’ schedules were pretty much dominated by practices and games, and they never missed one.
As if that wasn’t enough, he managed to find time for other kids as well. Some parents were not as dedicated or involved in their children’s lives and for those kids, my dad became the closest thing some of them had to a father. He would purposely volunteer to coach the “B” teams: the less talented and often over looked kids. His motto was “everyone plays.” He made sure every kid got playing time no matter how bad they were, and built them up and encouraged them in their efforts. He even managed to fill up the trophy case a few times.
The mainstay of his spiritual life was a love for the Bible and hearing good preaching. He always had a kind and encouraging word for others. He often found himself as a shoulder for others to lean on and even pastors confided in him. My dad was humble, at peace with his walk with God and at the end of his life had no regrets. He left us an incredible legacy of faithfulness and inspiration to follow in his steps.
I often think about the stories that were shared at his funeral. He never stood before a crowd and preached a sermon or lead a congregation in song. He didn’t travel to other countries on missions trips and when he gave his time to the church and community, it wasn’t for attention or praise. He left a legacy of lives who were touched by his words, his actions and his heart. And I know that when he met face to face with his Maker, he heard the words from Matthew 25:21 that every child of God longs to hear.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”