The servant's heart

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

My father, despite his gruff demeanor and often callous way of speaking, had a true servant's heart.

He helped people no matter their circumstance or situation, and showed compassion from the start not just whenever everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.

Daddy did for others even when it wasn't comfortable, or convenient.

My mother often didn't understand his giving/doing nature because often, it conflicted with doing things for her or around our house.

It was the family joke that everyone in the neighborhood had a fabulous house except us because my father, the carpenter, was busy taking care of everyone else's homes while ours fell into a state of disrepair.

When he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 62, so much of what he had done for others came back to me in spades.

At his two-night visitation, countless people, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, came to me and regaled me with the time or times he was there for them when no one else was.

"He gave me blood after an accident," I heard time and time again.

"He drove me to the doctor in Lexington (or Huntington – both three hour one-way trips back then)," many said.

"He fixed my roof (porch, bathroom, ceiling, floor), when no one would tackle a small job," some told.

"He found someone to help me at VA," veterans said.

And it went on and on. The day of his funeral was Thursday, April 15 - Income Tax Day.

I didn't expect the throng of people who came due to the timing, but hundreds came to the funeral and accompanied us to the cemetery.

My father preached his funeral as he lived, but I was too young and too self-absorbed to notice then. Now I appreciate him and the impact he made on our community.

In the latter part of my life, I've tried to follow in his footsteps –to be the person he was when it came to helping our fellow man.

Many times I've fallen short, despite good intentions.

I get waylaid with job, family, myself and sometimes don't do all that I can.

There was a time when I considered being a funeral director. I reasoned I could still write and make a decent living.

I'd spent a good portion of my life around death (another Daddy thing –he'd help dig graves – by hand – and not charge the family.), and I'd worked part-time with a local funeral home.

I even interned between my junior and senior year of high school.

Then it dawned on me after one of our clients came in after being murdered by an ex that not everyone dies in his sleep. I canceled those vocation plans.

Last week after processing my fifth obituary of the day for our newspapers, I asked, "God, is this why you've kept me in this business?"

I'm not there to help families make funeral arrangements or offer comfort, but I am there to help them find the right words for their loved ones' final send off.

Because I've experienced the deaths of parents, siblings, a best friend, etc., I genuinely empathize with them as they struggle for words.

And that's where I come in, offering whatever I can do to make it easier – and appropriate.

Someone said I had a servant's heart.

I wish I did.

I want to.

Over the weekend I thought about it. A lot.

There's so much more I can do. A lot more that I will do.

It's not New Year's yet, but I don't have to wait to resolve to become the person I should have been all along.

During the Christmas season, as thoughts traditionally turn to helping those less fortunate, I challenge anyone who reads this column to look for the servant's heart in you.

You may not have money to donate, or to buy, but if you're able to put one foot in front of the other, perhaps you could find it in yourself to give a little more of you – this month and in the months to come.

Visit a nursing home and read or play checkers with a patient. Walk your neighbor's dog so she can have a night off. Read to a child. Volunteer at a food bank or mission thrift store. Write a letter. Send a card. Surprise someone with a phone call. Reach out. Don't wait until you're asked – just do it. And don't expect anything in return.

Make someone's holidays happier and in turn it will come back to you – in spades.