My dad was an extravert engineer with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s; and he served as a branch chief in the Department of Transportation for the US government—first in Oregon and then in DC.
That’s an important backdrop for a big thing he taught me…
He would head straight for the dishwasher at church spaghetti dinners. Or on Easter at the pancake breakfast. Help count the money after church. Service.
As a roads guy, he made sure that the little town in Oregon that kept him fed after his mom died (he was eight) got the bridge they badly needed but had zero representation at the federal level to hope for.
In his 80s, he was still going to Haiti and Mexico and Thailand to help build water systems for impoverished communities, either on Christian missions or as part of Rotary.
And well into his 90s, he was still taking his pick-up to fetch the day-old bakery items from the grocery story and deliver them to the food bank.
When I was a kid, he made breakfast every Sunday morning, feeding us five ankle-grabbers on homemade sourdough waffles with fresh blueberry syrup (he picked the blueberries, kept the starter going) so Mom could get ready unimpeded. He was always doing the dishes, the laundry, mixing the powdered milk (in those days, everyone in our family drank milk with every meal and they couldn’t afford to buy that many gallons of the fresh stuff for a family of seven). He planted a one-acre garden and worked it to keep us fed in fresh veggies.
These actions were not the natural outgrowth of an introverted personality. They were a conscious act that went against his natural outgoing bent. He saw them as his job, his responsibility, his work from God that others should not have to do.
The day of his memorial service, when I went to pick up the programs that had his photo on the front, the guys running the print shop said, “Hey! I knew him. He was a pillar in the community. Always serving the community” One guy said, “He was my roommate in Thailand a few years ago.”
Service without expecting thanks. Never thinking “that’s not my job” or “that work is too low for me.”
He was an older father. (But I was blessed with his presence in my life well into my fifties.) His mother gave birth in 1920. I wonder what it must have been like for the grandmother I never knew to birth a child in the world of Ida B. Wells and Alice Paul. Ten days after her youngest was born, the US ratified the amendment giving women the right to vote.