Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Labor Day

This is the weekend we pay tribute to those men and women who have built America: its workers. Labor Day was begun as a commemoration of those who died in the 1894 Pullman Strike and has evolved over the years to a celebration of all workers and the unofficial end of summer. Labor Day today is a time for picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports, rallies and parades. I plan on spending this Labor Day like many of you, enjoying a day off, firing up the grill and perhaps taking a drive -- just to watch the sunset. But I will also spend this Labor Day in a time of remembrance and commemoration of one of the hardest workers I have ever had the privilege to know: my father-in-law.

My father-in-law (Dad) counted his life in many parts. Born in 1906, his early years were spent on the home place in rural Indiana. He was brought up to respect honesty and God and he went to church every Sunday. He was a young man during Great Depression. He took to riding the rails as a hobo, searching for the elusive job that would let him settle down. He told stories of how he worked as a soda jerk, saloon keeper, pool hustler and radio singer. It was this last career that led him to his wife: he would sing hymns on the radio and she just had to meet the man with the gentle voice.

The next great era in his life revolved around his family. He settled down in a small, two-bedroom home and raised five children, making sure each one went to a Lutheran school and attended church every Sunday. He worked long, hard hours at the local steel mill, standing in front of a blast furnace, absorbing the heat of molten steel as it was poured out of the giant ladle to be molded into ingots. The blast furnace took its toll on his body and arthritis ate away at the joints of his hands, neck and back. But he never quit, always making sure his family had a roof over its head, food on the table and clothes to wear to church.

Sadly, I only knew him at the end of his life. Shortly before he retired he was able to walk his daughter down the church aisle to place her hand into mine. We all had tears in our eyes as he whispered, "Good luck and God bless."

His lifelong dream was to see the home of Harry S. Truman in Independence, Missouri. He drove his bride of over 40 years to see Truman's house and shortly after, he was called to heaven. Dad was a working man who had his priorities straight. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. He judged no man, but was judged honest by all who knew him. His word was his bond and he worked hard to give his family something that lives beyond him: sound principles for living and an enduring example of the value of knowing God.

This Labor Day I honor one of the best laborers I've ever known -- a true workman in God's Kingdom.

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