Tag Archives: Virtue

A Friend’s Example

A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 24:33-34 (NIV)

It was the first summer of college and, like most young college students, I needed to make some money. I had a part-time internship but it paid little. So, I cobbled together a string of jobs. Each weekday morning at 5:00 a.m. I started my day driving a paper route delivering the daily USA Today to convenience stores. In the evenings and weekends, I worked at a bookstore in the mall. I mowed a few lawns. And, I always kept my ear open for potential odd jobs. So it was, when a large denomination was holding their global conference in Iowa, I spent a week babysitting for a small gaggle of bratty pastors’ kids all day.

I had a friend who joined me in the day care operation and together we oversaw boys ages 8-11. There was a lot of down time as we watched over the kids in various activities, and so we had a lot of conversations.

It’s funny how certain verses are tied to very specific memories for me. It was during that week of babysitting that my friend and I somehow got talking about Proverbs. I remember that it surprised me a bit, because I never thought him to be one who would read the Bible. But he told me that he had a favorite passage and then he recited to me..

A little sleep, a little slumber,

    a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

    and scarcity like an armed man.

He recited it with such precision and heartfelt conviction, that it has stuck with me the rest of my life. I can’t read these words without seeing folding his hands as he said the words, and hearing my friend’s unique vocal cadence saying them.

But, there’s more to this story. During that week, the two of us were mere acquaintances. That week planted seeds of friendship that grew into one of the most fruitful friendships I’ve experienced on my earthly journey. We had very different paths, he and I. In the 35 years we’ve been friends we’ve never lived in the same city (with the exception of a few summers home from college). We had very diverse academic and vocational paths. We’ve had very different spiritual journeys. In fact, his perfect and sincere recitation of these two verses is a rare and exceptional display of any sort of spiritual or religious conviction from him.

Thus, I find myself in the quiet this morning thinking about me and my friend hustling our butts off as teenagers and working multiple odd-jobs day and night to make money for college. I’ve observed from afar my friend pursuing his own difficult academic and career path with diligence and conviction. I’ve witnessed and celebrated with him as he has experienced tremendous success in his chosen field.

Looking back, I realize that the Proverbs he recited with such conviction, on that hot Iowa afternoon so many years ago, were words that he had ingested into his very life. He was speaking them from his soul. He embraced their wisdom and it was leading to him to the development of the virtue of hard work in his studies, his vocation, and his life.

I’m grateful to my friend. By his living example, he has taught me that it is one thing to read the words and understand what they say. It’s another thing to internalize their wisdom and let them motivate and guide my behavior.

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Simple Virtues; Simple Joys

A Des Moines Tribune headline from the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1981 I still have in my archive.
A Des Moines Tribune headline from the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1981 I still have in my archive.

You will eat the fruit of your labor;
Psalm 128:1-2a (NIV)

This morning as I went to the front door to gather the newspaper off the front porch, I was hit by a sudden wave of nostalgia. The simple joy of gathering the paper off the porch on a frigid January morning, and reading it over morning a hot cup of coffee is deeply rooted in my soul. I got my first job when I was almost twelve working as a paper boy for the now defunct Des Moines Tribune. There were two Des Moines newspapers when I was a kid. The Des Moines Register was the morning paper and the Des Moines Tribune was the afternoon paper. My buddy Scott Borg and I would categorize people in our neighborhood into “morning paper” people and “afternoon paper” people. Me and my family were afternoon paper people until the Des Moines Tribune closed up shop.

As a paperboy for “The Trib” I picked up my bundle each afternoon after school at the corner of Madison and Lawnwoods Dr. With a big yellow canvas paper carrier that was slung over the shoulder and a bag of rubber bands (or plastic bags on rainy days), I would begin my trek each week day west up Madison Avenue to Lower Beaver Road, then south to Douglas Ave. I would make my way back north on Lawnwoods Drive, as I zig-zagged up and down the side streets of Garden, Seneca, and Fleming Avenues. Delivering The Trib also meant you had to deliver the giant Des Moines Sunday Register early every Sunday morning. The slug who delivered The Register each weekday morning got to sleep in.

Map of my old paper route.
Map of my old paper route.

Every two weeks I was tasked with making a personal visit to each of my Tribune customers to collect their subscription fees. They would pay me and I would give them a little receipt torn from a perforated sheet of receipts. I would have to count the money, balance the amount, and turn it in to my regional manager. I got to know many of the people in the neighborhood around my home and even got a tip from time to time.

I come from a family in which the protestant work ethic was firmly engrained. Work was a virtue to be pursued at an early age. From my early career in the newspaper business I became an “Inventory Specialist” for my dad’s sign company. The monotonous task of counting hundreds of screws, bolts and washers out of large bins taught me very quickly that I just might want to do something different with my life. Paperboy, bolt counter, corn pollinator, lawn maintenance, film duster, actor, babysitter, bus boy, and retail clerk. By the time I left high school and headed off to college I had a wealth of work experience. By the time I left college I could add librarian’s assistant, cook, dishwasher, resident assistant, waiter, caterer, and voice over talent to the list.

There is honor in doing a job. There is even greater honor in doing a job well. That was the example of my grandparents, parents, and older siblings. That was the ethic of my Dutch ancestors. I’m grateful for that. This morning I’m thinking about simple virtues like doing a job, and about simple joys like opening up a newspaper with your morning coffee and reading your news “the old fashioned way.”

Enhanced by Zemanta