Several weeks ago when I traveled back to my hometown to visit Mom, I drove by my Dad’s old workplace. What I saw made my heart sink. The Marshall Pottery Plant #1 that once proudly churned out red clay pots had been reduced to a shell of sheet metal and rocky rubble. Having ceased operations years ago, the once vibrant pottery plant had stood empty for several years. If memory serves, it served as a warehouse for another company in the years after it ceased production. Today, what is left of the old plant stands as a stark reminder that nothing temporal lasts forever and that sooner or later, change catches up with us all.
As a young boy, I looked forward to our regular visits to the Pottery. Dad and I would hop in his truck or our station wagon, usually stopping by the barbershop located around the block from Plant #1 on the way. Now, the stairs leading up to the plant entrance that I climbed as a boy accompanying my Dad on many Saturday mornings led to nowhere. It was in this place that I first learned many of the skills I employ in my work as a chaplain today. I learned how to talk to strangers, listen to what they had to say, and commit details about the conversation to memory. People like it when you show interest in what they do and remember who they are.
A tool and die maker by trade, Dad loved machines and understood them better than he sometimes understood people. He could trust machines. They didn’t lie. They produced according to their purpose. If they broke down, machines could be fixed. A machine’s problem tended to be its operator or its caretaker. Bad operators and sloppy caretakers can quickly ruin a good machine. People, I learned, don’t always tell the truth and when they break, people tend to be much harder to fix. We tend to take better care of machines than we do people. Never overlook your people.
Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.
Dad and I would march up the stairs and into the plant to check on how things were going and see if there were any problems. I was simply glad to come along and spend time with him. Once inside, Dad shared his life’s work and his passion for machines with me, as well as his general love for people. He would always take the time to show me the latest pottery production innovation his team had been working on or highlight a new machine that they had recently brought to life. He introduced me to all the workers, regardless of position or title, teaching me to shake hands, look people in the eye, and remember their names. Everyone matters. Everybody plays a role. He taught me to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Dad believed in treating people with dignity even if he didn’t agree with them or like them. He’d rather you be honest than pretend to be someone you’re not. Dad respected hard work and knew that life handed you nothing for free. We could use more of that in our world today.
Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men… Colossians 3:23 (HCSB)
Seeing the plant, a diminished and dismembered shell of old memories, made me sad at first. But, by the good grace of God, I had time to reflect and reminisce on a life that once existed and that today seems much different in hindsight than it did at the time. Over the years, I’ve learned that you never know how God is going to use your experiences until the moment He is ready for you to know. One thing is for certain, He never wastes an opportunity. Neither should we.
As always, thanks for reading.
The Devotional Guy™
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