I grew up in a very small Iowa town as the son of a Methodist minister. I remember thinking how much I would rather my father be a carpenter or run a filling station than be a clergyman. It just didn’t seem like a real job. One day in fifth grade a classmate asked, “What’s your dad do?”.
“He’s the minister at the Methodist Church,” I told him.
He looked at me and said, “So, what else does he do?”
That question reflected all my suspicions about my father’s occupation.
In fith grade I could see no value in being a clergyman. It was not a real job. But growing up in rural Iowa gave me many opportunities to compare occupations as I matured. When I was nine I had a newspaper route. Then I mowed lawns. I baled hay. I pulled weeds in soybean fields. I was a lifeguard. Later, I was in the army. In college I drove a school bus. I was a singing waiter. I cleaned apartment buildings for rent. I drove a ready mix truck. And after it all I ended up as a parent and farmer raising corn, soybeans and hogs and above all, a wonderful crop of three fine children who I’m sure wished that their father did something more interesting and worthwhile.
I’m fine with that, because somewhere along the line, in my very non-illustrious resume, I figured out that a title does not indicate a well-lived or important life. I believe that all people, no matter what their vocation, have an equal shot at genuine pride in what they do and are equally deserving of honor and satisfaction in their lives when they do their jobs well and their work stands a test of time. Through our work, whether we are parents or presidents, we demonstrate what is important in our lives and the results of our work truthfully represent our values in spite of what we say. Eventually, we each come to a point when our perspective forces us to look back and admit with pride or shame what we really are and what our work and our lives have meant. Hopefully,our work, as evidenced by what is left in our wake, will be adequate to help our children understand that the quality of everyones’ life is positively affected by the honorable and upright work we do. Titles may come and go, but they will not truly reflect the lasting evidence of a worhwhile life. Usually our work, as parents to out children, as comrades to those who share our occupation, and as civic participants in our larger communities will be our final and lasting testament.
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