Integrity

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When I am four

I pretend to be asleep in the car

So you will carry me into the house.

A few years later,

I ride along with you to

Ball games,

Farm equipment stores,

And sometimes hospitals

Where you take an elevator up

To sit with or pray with someone,

While I read and wait next to

Flower shop carnations.

When I am little

You read me stories,

And hold my hands while I

Jump the waves, before I learn

How to swim.

You teach me

How to play catch,

Maneuver a wheelbarrow of silage,

Tug the pull cord to start up the lawn mower.

You show me how to

Keep my bearings,

Read a roadmap,

Check oil and coolant levels.

 

Ice rattles in the thermos,

I walk it out to you.

The air smells sweet of mown hay.

You climb down from the tractor,

Sweat-drenched from

Many rounds in the hot field.

 

Front screen door slams

We step out into

Summer’s unbroken drought.

Wind rattles shriveled corn leaves

While you study the horizon,

Hoping for rain.

 

I glimpse you leaning back in your chair,

Deep in thought at your desk.

A fluorescent light shining

On piles of Bible commentaries

And a yellow legal pad you’ve

Scrawled with sermon notes.

 

Although I sit for 18 years

Of Sundays, listening to you preach

From Bible passages,

I do not remember

You giving lectures or

Speeches to us at home.

But I know you

Pray for your children

By name.

By example

Is how you teach.

 

You sit down when company comes,

Aiming to welcome and put at ease.

You enjoy people.

You ask questions and listen to the answers.

You share stories, but rarely opinions.

You find common ground,

Talk to people about

What interests them.

You tell your favorite jokes,

The ones your wife and children

Have long ago memorized.

You laugh and pull out

Your handkerchief,

Wiping your eyes.

 

In public and private,

The same man:

Farmer,

Pastor,

Husband,

Father,

Neighbor,

Brother,

Friend.

 

 

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