I am writing this on Father’s Day. And some stories I like to (well, actually, I need to) retell, for the good of my heart. Because “the stories people tell, have a way of taking care of them… Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.” (Barry Lopez)
I am the son of a brick mason. I am the eldest of five children. Which means that my summer options, as a schoolboy, were limited. I could be a hod carrier (mixing mortar—called “mud”—hauling bricks, blocks or stone and intuiting the needs of masons not known for their patience).
Or, I could be a hod carrier.
Being a hod carrier is real work. I mean, physical work. Dog-tired at the end of the day work. And I couldn’t wait to grow up and go to college, and get a real job.
My father’s leadership style, typical of Midwestern fathers of his generation, was straightforward, “Don’t loaf. Don’t whine. Don’t make excuses. This’ll make a man out of you.” (I will admit, as a high school football player and wrestler, I couldn’t have asked for a better workout regimen.)
Even so, college beckoned. Real work, you know, where I could make a real difference. And become somebody.
And I did. After two degrees and an ordination, I set out as The Reverend. No longer just a hod carrier, or just a construction worker.
On one visit to Michigan in my late 30s, my father and I drove the streets in the small town of Sturgis, drifting in his pickup truck. We could drive for miles without saying much. (Not a bad skill to learn.) The truck slowed as if by volition, and I wondered if something was amiss. Then it hit me. My Father slowed to regard a house that he had built; decades prior. He parked by the curb. And he told me stories, about building the house, about the owner, about members of the crew and about pranks played on the job site.
For the rest of the afternoon, we meander the streets, looking not just at houses or chimneys, but also at the quality of work that has stood the test of time. These weren’t just buildings. They were works of art and labors of love.
And then we stopped in front of a house I recognized. Where I spent a summer on a crew, just a hod carrier, building someone’s dream. (But I hadn’t seen it.)
And the light bulb came on.
Now, I never use the phrase “just a” anymore. About anyone.
I know this for certain: it doesn’t take much to nurse resentment or regret. There are times when whatever we are doing seems not enough (no doubt a miasma of guilt or shame and the vagaries of public opinion).
Over the years I have heard, “I’m just a volunteer (or just a member, or catechist, or teacher, or aid, or worker, or helper, or employee, or friend, or mother or father or fill in the blank).”
To each I say, No.
You see, “just a” creates a label and tells us what we are not. And when we label, we dismiss. (Regardless of the label. Dorothy Day once scoffed, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”)
So, how then do we make a difference?
Here’s the deal: Your work (labor) is your turf of responsibility. Which is only part of our DNA. Because no matter where we labor or toil, our calling is to spill the light.
And the good news? For this we don’t have to pass a test, or qualify, we have only to be willing.
Jesus made it simple, “Let your light shine.”
Not, when you get your act together.
Not, when you feel noble.
Not, when you find a specific vocation.
Not, after you’ve chased all the gloom away.
Just let it shine. Because the light is already there. Inside of you. Now.
What we do, and who we are, touches lives, plain and simple.
This matters more than ever, in a divisive world, a world on edge, a world where a kind word or gesture makes all the difference. We need a reset on making a difference.
My Father never signed a contract. His handshake was his word. One man told me, “When Jerry Hershey shook your hand you knew you were going to get something you would be proud of. Something that would stand the test of time.”
What did my Father build? Houses.
What did my Father do? He made a difference.
My Father died in 2020. RIP dad.
On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all enslaved people free in Confederate territory. But many enslaved people didn’t get the news right away. June 19, 1865 is when word of the proclamation reached African Americans in Texas. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reminds us, “This is not just another day where you just take off… It is a day of freedom, of liberation for people who were once slaves and who were set free.”
And yesterday, a treat. At the Kitsap Forest Theater (celebrating their centennial), a performance of The Sound of Music. And yes, very hard not to sing along. And the majestic part, the theater sits in a 460-acre nature conservancy with 70 acres of old growth forest—trees over 350 years old.
And for golf lovers, today, an entertaining nail biting US Open.
Quote for our week…
Vocation is the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s greatest hunger meet. Frederick Buechner
Today’s Photo Credit: “Greetings Terry, June 2nd–Sitting on our besties’ lanai overlooking the Tolomato River in Vilano Beach, north of St. Augustine, FL. There’s not much we can say about a sunset like this, except how grateful we are to have friends who are willing to share it with us so unselfishly, and a God who adorns the evening sky so brilliantly for us to enjoy. Every Blessing,” Don and Gwyn Boothe… Thank you Don and Gwyn… Thank you to all, keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365)
Letters that do my heart good…
–Morning Terry, Thank you for this Sabbath moment teaching around success. I’m appreciating your reference’s to Mr. Rogers (it’s what we do with what we have) and enjoyed Bessie’s version of success. Not that Walt’s wasn’t good as well! I find hers simple, mindful, to the point. Heartfelt. Appreciating all you bring to our plates each day in the form of words, musings. Continued blessings, happiness and love to you. Maria
–Dear Terry, I so appreciate receiving Sabbath Moment via email. You start my week on a thoughtful note and inform the subsequent days. Thanks so very much sharing your wisdom and open heart. Peace and many blessings. Katy
–Thank you Terry for your quick reply; most appreciated. I have followed the detailed instructions for ensuring I receive SM again. I been racking my brain trying to remember the name of the TV show where I first heard and saw. It was back in the 80’s and called New Morning Show (I think). Your message was as inspiring then as it is today!
POEMS AND PRAYERS
A prayer for our children:
I want their hearts to keep beating.
I want them to live.
But then, a grateful heart beats in a world of miracles.
If I could only speak one prayer for you, my children,
it would be that your hearts would not only beat
but grow ever greater in gratitude,
that your lives, however long they prove to be
and no matter how they end,
continue to bring you miracles in abundance.
May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do. May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden you.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.