The builder lifted his old gray head.
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This stream, which has been as naught to me,
To that fair youth may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim —
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”
I remember when I was about 16 or so, we were helping a friend move. We were in the act of moving something very heavy when my dad gave way a let me and others do the lifting. This was the first time the thought ever occurred to me that my dad was beginning to age.
To me, my dad was a mountain of a man, a pillar of strength, a rock. Was I beginning to see a chink in his impenetrable armor?
Now it’s many years later and not just my dad but his whole generation has aged. Many of his closest friends are no longer with us. My mom is no longer with us. I’ve watched family and friends battle sickness and loneliness; become frail and vulnerable. Sometimes it can be difficult to watch. But, being difficult to watch is not an excuse for not helping. These very people that have helped me so many times are in need. Am I helping enough?
I miss my mom. I think back to all of the little things that she did for me. How many dinners did she cook for me? How many times did she correct things that I didn’t do so well? How many good things did she try and teach me that I didn’t listen to? I know she’s proud of who I am and what I have become, but there is still a question in my mind if I thanked her enough. Was there more that I could have done?
My father-in law has digressed in recent years. In his younger years and even his mid-life years he was bigger than life. He would help anybody, anytime, anywhere. I was probably the recipient of his help more than anyone. The other day he and I were riding in my car going to get a strawberry milkshakes. We were at a red light when I said to him, “thank you for everything you have done for me”. I think he thought I was crazy.
Like many of us, during my younger years I didn’t appreciate how good I had it. I took too many things for granted. I really didn’t know what was important. My dad and my relationship was fine but it could have been so much better. All that I had to do was make a little effort. Since my mom passed, I have been spending a lot more time with my dad. I think we have learned so much more about each other. Our relationship has become special. I always knew he was a great man but now I know he is great for so many more reasons. I’ll never be able to repay him for everything he has done for me.
I, too, am starting to age. I am not able to do some of the things that I used to be able to do. I have been blessed with a great family and friends. Things have turned out well because of the great people that showed me the way. When I look back to all of those that have helped me, for many reasons, I know that it would be impossible to repay them. But, the one thing I thing learned from these influential people, the best way to repay them and others is by paying it forward. I better get busy!"