“I found another one,” I cried in delight as I pull a 16 foot piece of rough hewn 2×6 from the pile of lumber hidden under two years of pasture growth.
My younger sister rubs her rounded baby-laden tummy and grins. “Daddy would be proud”. The kids groan and roll their eyes before her unimpressed 13 year old dutifully takes it from me.
My husband doesn’t seem to share our pleasure in finding a use for what he considers garbage wood. He gives me that look and says, “You two are such your fathers daughters”. I look at my sister and chuckle.
From the time I was a little girl, I often watched my dad in amazement. He was always up to some adventure, creating something incredible and making sure nothing went to waste. I can’t tell you how many times I got to sort through the ‘pig food’ that he would pick up from the grocers to find the perfectly good apples, strawberries and oranges in the discarded produce. I still remember how impressed I was the day he drove up with a truck load of ‘few-days-old’ goods from the local bakery.
I can also recall my disappointment when he only allowed us to sample a few of the goods before feeding them to our pigs. The time he brought home about 50 boxes of christmas oranges and I had an orange eating contest with my best friend was a day I’ll never forget. I think I ate 80 oranges that day and felt sick all night long. When we got rid of the pigs, Dad still collected rejects from the bakeries and grocers and faithfully drop off any edible goods to people who appreciated a little help in feeding their families (this episode of turning point shows a lady who did something similar).
It wasn’t just food my dad saved and used. It was not uncommon for him to pick up a discarded glove from the side of the road or ‘perfectly good’ sock. At the time, I was older and his ‘rescuing’ sometimes caused great embarrassment but usually it just amused me. I remember one day, when I was an old and mature 19 year old and I climbed up on the roof of a gazebo he was building out of new and very used wood (he always had a stash of wood near his houses) and asked if I could help him put on shingles. My dad looked at me skeptically and asked, “Do you know how to hammer?”. He laughed when I scowled at him. I had been building from the time I was a little girl, collecting the discarded pieces of wood that even my dad couldn’t find a reason to keep, and making my own little houses, boats and cars. Enjoying his joke, Dad handed me another hammer.
While we hammered in the blistering sun he told me a secret the still makes me smile remembering. Holding up a bent nail, he said, “I have converted tons of nails in my time”. He went on to explain as he straightened the nail. “I always pick up bent nails, and when I straighten them I think to myself, ‘We are all like these bent nails, imperfect and often overlooked and rejected. But with the gospel, and the atonement we can be straightened. And even if we never get as straight as we were when we were first created, it doesn’t matter.’ Working together, a bent nail is just as important in holding up this gazebo as a perfectly straight one. And so it is like us, we are all just as important in fulfilling God’s plan for us, no matter what we have done, where we have come and how bent we are. As long as we have faith in Jesus and try to try our best Jesus makes all the difference.”
My love for my dad increased that day, on that roof. I recalled the countless times he took time to ‘save’ a lost, mismatched, discarded person. Whether it was the grumpy furnace guy, a lost teen-ager (and we had many coming through our home), the hitchhiker guy on the ferry, or the scared 11 year old who came to our house in the middle of the night to get away from a drunken father, my dad treated them all as the unique, special and loved child of God that they were.