I'm not a sentimentalist, just an average guy, pushing sixty and yet still remember that first church youth trip. Dad, a firm believer in the time-tested work ethic, let me squirm a bit as the registration deadline drew near. I knew begging would only make the matter worse so I just waited and prayed.
We were finishing our supper and I asked my parents to excuse me from the table.
"Just a minute, Luke, I've made up my mind about that youth trip."
I waited, for what seemed like an eternity to an impatient boy of thirteen, for my Dad to continue.
"I'll give you enough cash for the registration fee but you'll have to pay me back."
"Great, thanks, Dad! I'll pay you back out of my weekly allowance."
"No, you are going to have to earn that money."
I began to think of odd jobs I might be able to find around our small neighborhood. To my surprise, Dad had a far different plan already mapped out.
"I'm hiring you. You're going to mow our lawn."
"Yeah, I can do that!"
"Son, I want you to take this job seriously. You will do it first thing each Saturday morning. I'm your employer and I expect you to do the job right."
"Don't ask me or your Mama to let you go fishing or play ball. You will begin mowing at daybreak every Saturday morning. Remember, I'm the boss."
As I look back, my father's wisdom astounds me. The memories of that summer's trip are more vivid than any other vacations. I earned my own way and learned the value of hard work to boot!
The years soared by and I finished high school with a scholarship to an Ivy League university. I lived on campus and did not have to think twice about where to earn pocket money. I went straight to my counselor.
"Sir, do you know anybody who needs their lawn mowed? Need to make spending money."
"Luke, it's your lucky day! The campus yardman just retired and we've been looking for someone to fill that opening. Think you can handle the job without falling down on your studies?"
"I'm sure I can! When do I start?"
"Follow me to the office. We'll talk it over with the head of the grounds committee, just a formality. You've got the job."
The work continued right through my senior year. I earned a sheepskin and picked up a green thumb along the way. Following graduation, I felt restless, tried several jobs but just never seemed to fit in. My folks were beginning to wonder if I'd ever find myself.
I got in a regular routine of beginning each day with the local paper and a cup of Mama's fresh brewed coffee. I always started reading in the help wanted ads of the classifieds section. One Saturday morning, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and focused on an unobtrusive ad at the bottom of a page.
Lawn Maintenance Professional
Apply in person
Greater Vision Golf Course"
I nearly choked on my sip of steaming hot coffee, and then rushed upstairs to shave and shower. I slipped into my dress jeans, snazzy red plaid shirt and matching V-neck sweater before speeding off to the golf course. Maybe lawn care was not an Ivy Leaguer's idea of success but this small town boy thought of it as top of the ladder and end of the job wanted line. I landed the position and mowed a straight path to career fulfillment.
I married and raised a family. Along the way, I established my own lawn care and landscaping business, servicing prestigious motels, hotels, condominiums and swanky resorts. Just think it all began with a push mower in my own families' yard.
Saturday is now my day of leisure. My wife Abby serves my coffee in bed as I surf my favorite TV channels. She set my morning eye-opener on the nightstand and I sprung my big news.
"Honey, yesterday I signed an important job contract."
"Luke, I thought you were ready to hang it all up and retire. Your arthritis is getting worse and we both wanta' travel. You sure about this?"
I swallowed the lump in my throat, sniffled and said, "It's for the Evergreen Cemetery. I'll be able to keep the grass cut around Dad's grave marker. Without him, I would never have discovered the work God set aside especially for me.