“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We live today in a world in which changing jobs is a fairly regular thing. It is not uncommon, though, for people to change not merely jobs, but whole careers. There are literally millions of job openings around the country today because people are quitting their jobs at a record pace in order to get a new one somewhere else making more money. The whole country is feeling the effects of the chaos this is causing. Historically speaking, though, this idea of not doing one thing your entire life is new. It is becoming rarer and rarer to find someone who has pursued one path for an entire lifetime. It is even more unusual for someone to do that well. Milestones like that are worth acknowledging. This morning, we are taking a detour from our journey through Hebrews because I have one such milestone in particular that I’d like to share and celebrate with you. Today is the 40th anniversary of when my dad started practicing law.
I’ve only ever known my dad to do one thing. And there’s a reason for that. I’m not quite forty years old. Just a few months before I was born, he got a job working for Charlie Crewes that he has been working at every day since. I remember my dad working hard. All the time. Now, he only ever rarely missed my events whether school or sports or church. He would even occasionally come have lunch with me during the school day in grade school when that was still cool. I would only later understand how inconvenient that was for him given how long the drive was back and forth from my school to his office, but that just made those times all the more special. Through junior high he waited at the bus stop with me on most mornings, and in high school, before I could drive myself, he drove me to school.
And he involved me in his work to a certain extent. When he served a term as a local judge, I remember going with him on several occasions and sitting in his chambers while court was in session. For some reason, I remember most one time near Christmas when I sat back there with the big Toys R Us catalogue circling something on every page to add to my Christmas list. He occasionally took me with him to court where I learned to sit quietly in the back until he was done. For about as far back as I can remember, he and I went to breakfast every Saturday morning at Mrs. A’s Cafe before going to get the mail at two different post offices (government efficiency at its finest) and landing at his office where he worked while I sorted and delivered mail, emptied trash cans around the office, trimmed bushes and sprayed weeds outside when I got a little older, and played lots of solitaire on his secretary’s computer. Before he upgraded his systems, I played the DOS version of Nibbles.
When I was little, I’m not sure I ever really knew exactly what he did beyond that he was a lawyer. Well, that’s not totally true. I knew that he was on the board for an ambulance and small bus manufacturer and did work for them. For a long time that meant he went out of town once a month to Hutchinson, KS, for a weekend-long meeting. I never minded his going, though, because he always stopped by their world-class space center (I know a space center in the middle of nowhere doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it really was fantastic) and brought me home a patch or two from a U.S. space mission. I have the patches from just about every mission from the start of the program through the mid-90s. He brought the whole family with him one weekend so we could see the place. I still remember that visit.
None of that really has much to do with his practicing law except to say that he worked really hard while never getting his priorities backwards on what was most important. Not so many folks manage that kind of a balance over a period of decades. And I knew he worked really hard not just because I saw it for myself, but because on the many occasions when he had me with him for one work thing or another and we encountered his peers, they unfailing bragged on him to me. Why they would tell a young boy how great a man his dad was over and over and over again didn’t make a whole lot of sense except for the fact that it was true.
Somewhere along the way, though, my dad’s law practice (which became officially his after his long-time law partner and original founder of the firm, Charlie, died unexpectedly…I still remember my mom receiving that phone call; I was with my dad on more than one occasion in the years after when he went to check on Charlie’s widow, Marilyn) began to transition into family law, specifically adoption law. I don’t know when this happened except to say it was at least 30 years ago. His job became focused in the direction of helping kids in the foster care system get permanent placements with their forever families.
This practice started small, but grew steadily. He gradually came to know this unique area of law better and better. And he started doing more and more adoptions. Then he started taking on more difficult cases when parents had made choices that resulted in their being unable to care for their own children any longer. I watched the long hours he put into making sure those vulnerable little ones got into situations that were a whole lot better than what they might have known without his work. He worked incredibly hard and stressed a great deal for a season to help make new families complete. And success brought more work. More adoptions. More families. He even took a couple of cases all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court where he argued successfully to see the state’s family law changed for the better.
Now adoptions are about all he does. And my how he does them. He keeps himself and his staff busier than a one-armed man at a plate spinning contest (to borrow a phrase from him). But the result of all his labor is that lots of children have been moved out of the foster care system and into permanent, stable, happy, healthy family situations. I couldn’t even begin to guess what the actual number is, but it goes very quickly into the thousands. He is singularly responsible (along with his excellent staff) of seeing nearly as many children connected with families as there are children currently in Missouri’s foster care system. And he keeps doing more because he doesn’t want to see any child left in that necessary, but unfortunate system a day longer than is absolutely necessary as far as it depends on him.
So, he crisscrosses the state on a regular basis doing for the least of these what they could have never done for themselves. And at 40 years running today, he’s not slowing down just yet. No, quite the opposite is true. He’s doing more adoptions than he’s ever done before. By the end of this year, he will likely have seen more kids connected with permanent families than there are days in the year. To say I’m proud of him doesn’t even begin to cover it. You should be too. He’s doing good, kingdom work. His reward will one day be great. And there are thousands of families across his state and perhaps the country who are grateful for it. Thank you, Dad. Congratulations on a truly special milestone. Keep it up.