In 1989 at the age of 48 my father died of cancer. It was only years later that I realized the impact that he had on my life. He was a quiet man who avoided any attention, recognition or glory. But He was always willing to do a favor. He was always the first one to volunteer if the church needed painting or other odd jobs. Every fall he would patch up the worse spots on the roof of the trailer owned by the old man down the street, hoping to get him through one more winter.
But the one thing that I most remember is the nativity stables. One year my mother painted a ceramic nativity scene. My father then built a wooden stable for it. When people came to visit they would comment on the stable and ask where they purchased it. My father ended up building many more stables. People would bring some of their figurines to him and he would build one to scale for them. They were all shocked when they attempted to pay and he would never accept payment, no matter how much they insisted.
We weren’t rich. My father worked in a factory and, because it was important to them, my parents struggled to put five kids through Catholic School. I couldn’t understand what it would have hurt to accept money for a job well done. Dad was a man of few words, but I’ll never forget when he looked at me and said “If I took money then it would be work”. I realized that he wouldn’t enjoy making them anymore if he did it for money. The thought of giving something, that someone really wanted, at not cost made the creating worthwhile.
I really believe that we all have stables in us somewhere. Maybe we can’t work with wood, but maybe we are teachers, counselors, or just ears to listen or shoulders to cry on. We all have something to give, expecting nothing in return.
As we travel through life, if we are lucky, we will meet a few people to hold up as examples. I was lucky to have one as my father. If you’re lucky enough to still have your father around let him know how much you cherish him. Thank him for all the stables he’s given you.
by Daniel Roth 1998