When I was in high school, I remember one night sitting down at the kitchen table with my dad. “I want to show you something,” he said, reaching into his wallet and pulling out a check for one million dollars. As I was catching my breath, he explained that even though the check was made out to him, it was not ours to spend, at least not all of it. He had just been contracted by the U.S. Government to build a post office and this was mostly an advance to cover startup costs.
As amazed as I was to be staring at such a large sum of money, I was even more surprised to hear what Dad said next. Rather than schooling me on the ways and means of microeconomics, as might have been expected, he encouraged me instead to consider a more enlightened view of finances.
“You need to know that this check is not the source of our family’s income,” he said. “Our income comes from the ideas behind it.”
I had always known Dad to be a thoughtful person, but this was one of the few times that he spoke to me in such spiritual, if a bit cryptic, terms. I could tell, however, what he was driving at. As a student of Christian Science, he was accustomed to looking at things from a decidedly God- or Spirit-based perspective and less from a matter-based one, and this was his way of getting me to do the same. “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies,” he would often remind me, quoting Christian Science Church founder Mary Baker Eddy. “Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.”
For years Dad had cherished the idea of being his own boss. Although he trained as a mechanical engineer and spent a decade or so working for companies as diverse as Studebaker and General Dynamics, he had long wanted to start a construction company. As family legend has it, Mom found him one afternoon sitting at our backyard picnic table sifting through a stack of papers. When she asked why he wasn’t at work, he told her that he decided that morning to quit his job as a “pencil pusher” and that he was taking steps toward getting his contractors license.
If I had to guess, I don’t think Dad ever saw this decision as his ticket to getting rich but, instead, as the most natural and most logical way to better use his many God-given talents. It was also the beginning of a constant stream of inspired ideas that included everything from building custom homes, apartment buildings, and restaurants to restoring the historic pavilion surrounding the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ.
As easy as it is for me to trace Dad’s success – both as a businessman and family man – to his appreciation of God or divine Mind as the source of all spiritual ideas, I am sure there are those who might see it as nothing more than good ol’ positive thinking. Certainly Dad felt, as I do, based on my study of the Bible, that God’s plan for His/Her creation includes only good. But he also knew that it takes a lot more than simply wishing something to be so in order for it to be manifest in one’s life. It takes patience, of course, and persistence. But perhaps more than anything, it takes humility, that great separator between those who are consciously, consistently receptive to God’s unfailing grace and those who assume that they can somehow insert themselves into the driver’s seat of the Divine.
This is not to say that Dad never experienced adversity. But when he did, I don’t recall him ever blaming God, or himself, for his troubles. Instead, they were opportunities to get to know God better and to see himself and others in a more divinely inspired light.
Something else I feel pretty certain about, and that is that Dad never saw material wealth as a reward for his faith, nor did he see it as the expected return on his investment, financial or otherwise, in his local church. In fact, I don’t know that such wealth was ever a consideration. I do know, however, that Dad understood supply, in whatever form it took, to be an expression of God’s unconditional love for His/Her creation, including our family, and that this love would never run out. “What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love,” declared Eddy. “More we cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have.”
Although decades have passed since Dad and I had our little chat, I can’t imagine there will ever be a time when I forget, or my life will fail to be enriched, by the truths he shared that evening and lived throughout his life. I just want to remember to pass along the blessing.