As children, we had an unfinished basement. We had concrete floors in a portion of it, two doors, one leading outside and a second to the garage and steps that led upstairs to the kitchen. It was a great place to roller skate during the winter and do other fun stuff, like setting up boxes with which to practice with our bows and arrows – we didn’t own BB guns.
Christmas was always a time of great expectation. We checked off items in every Christmas toy catalogue that came along in hopes that we might get something that we really wanted.
You might imagine my surprise, at the age of 10, when my father led me down to the basement to show me my brand new workbench! I am not exactly sure where he got this idea – there were none shown in the catalogues. But, it was more common in those days to do things yourself, so I guess that he felt that it was high time that I set about learning to do this.
I later learned that it was with some great degree of nostalgia that my father had called his shop teacher from Atlanta’s Boys High (he was surprised to find him still alive, I suspect) and sought out the manufacturer of the very benches that he had learned from in “shop” class while in high school. He was very proud of my new gift.
It was a nice bench with a butcher block top – before these became cool – a wrench with which I soon learned that I could crush just about anything. It has a hammer, a saw, a crank drill, some screw drivers and a level-ruler with an angle on it which gave me the ability to mark a 45° or 90° angle on a piece of wood for sawing.
Dad had collected some pieces of scrap wood and some nails and set about showing me how to build an absolutely useless airplane. The training for the use of the hammer, saw and the angle ended at that point. Using a drill and a vice required absolutely no instruction at all – I spent hours boring holes in wood and crushing things.
In any event, given limited resources – primarily scraps of wood tossed aside at neighboring construction projects and articles retrieved from trash dumps (we lived in the country … city folk thought nothing of driving out and dumping their junk on the side of the road not far from where we lived), I set about creating a lot of different contraptions from seemingly nothing. I must have reused the wood from that airplane in 5 or 6 different projects before it had too many holes and splits to be useful for anything but firewood.
I became quite adept at the use of a hammer and a saw – I still enjoyed tinkering with this today. But, neither I nor my father became builders, carpenters or electricians – our interests were in following the paths of my forefathers in real estate. However, I have always felt a certain kindred spirit with these people and have always felt that, given a second chance, I might have gotten just as much satisfaction out of one of those careers as the one I chose – at least they can’t take their work home with them at night.
When I look back on the great gifts that were given to me by my father, this was possibly the greatest of all – the ability to create something with limited resources. I believe that this has contributed more to my success than most any other element of my upbringing!
I must add that, as a man created in the image of his Maker – the great creator, where I am not surprised that I have these abilities, I must be most thankful that He has given me the insight to employ them effectively in order to survive.