One Man’s Roofing is Another Man’s…

16 09 2009

Every so often, I have some minor epiphany that makes me understand my dad a little more.

My dad had two main jobs that I can remember while I was growing up. He was either working in the ministry in various capacities (pastor, youth pastor, etc) or he was roofing houses.

Of the two jobs, working in the ministry is what I would say he was passionate about. It’s what he went to school for; it’s the area in which he’s most obviously gifted. But it can be a complicated way to make a living. My dad’s not the kind of guy who lets something that’s broken stay broken just to maintain the status quo. He shakes it up, he fixes it, even if the fixing is going to be a painful process. It’s one of the things I admire most about my dad, but it’s also something that’s not always met with warm, cooperative support. And for that reason, a second source of income was often necessary.

My dad was also skilled in the trade of roofing, as are others in his family. It was often my dad’s fallback for supporting his wife and children. Even today, I’m betting that somewhere in Colorado, my dad is working on a roof somewhere.

He used to take me along when I was a kid. I loved being around my dad, and I loved the idea of working with my dad. But I’m not going to lie, I hated roofing and I still hate it. It’s brutal. I can’t imagine anything worse than a tear-off on a hot day. The fiberglass splinters from the shingles, the smell of sticky tar, the sore muscles from trying to balance on an incline all day. The parts that I enjoyed had nothing to do with roofing — it was talking with my dad, listening to talk radio together, eating lunch together, and the satisfaction of having accomplished something at the end of the day. But the actual work of roofing sucks.

I think that I made a conscious effort to try to do my roofing work without absorbing any of the skill or knowledge associated with it. I decided somewhere along the way that I did NOT want to know how to roof houses, because I didn’t even want it to be an option for me to fall back on roofing when I reached adulthood.

During my sophomore year of high school, my school decided to offer a course called “Internet.” In this course, the teacher and the students learned alongside each other just what exactly this thing called the internet, rapidly growing in popularity, was all about. I got the school library to purchase a few books that would teach me how to build websites. Back then, it was strictly a manual endeavor — websites were built by making graphics in Adobe Photoshop and coding pages manually in Windows Notepad. I built my school’s first website, and we were one of the first schools in the entire state to have a website.

I started putting that knowledge to work shortly after high school. I continued learning and continued building. Several of my jobs have at least involved, if not centered around, web design. I’ve done numerous websites as a contractor, and still continue to do so.

So this week, when I started to take a hard look at the financials for my cafe and realized that it’s not making the money it needs to be making, I realized that I once again need to get proactive about doing something additional to make sure that the bills are paid. My mind, of course, immediately turned toward securing more website work.

And that’s when it hit me: in my determination to avoid becoming a roofer like my dad, I actually did exactly the same thing as my dad.

His roofing is my website development.

Because the funny thing is, web design isn’t something that I love, but it’s something that I know how to do, it’s something that makes decent money, it’s something that I’m good at, and it’s something that I don’t really mind even if I don’t love it. And at the end of the day, my biggest concern is strictly on making sure that I’m bringing in the resources necessary to take care of my wife and children. And building websites is a way for me to do that when my other endeavors aren’t able to.

It got me thinking about my dad and how hard he worked to provide for his family. He made his fair share of mistakes as a father, and I think he’d be the first to tell you that. But I never had a dad who sat around doing nothing while his family went in need of provision.

It all seems like a pretty obvious lesson, but it still felt like a significant realization to me. In a perfect world, I think we’d all be doing something for a living that we enjoyed and that reflected our natural talents and abilities. But in the real world, when you have a family to support, supporting them is really the most important thing.

I get it now — I get why my dad spent so much of his life doing something other than what I always perceived to be his “true calling.” He knew that he had a responsibility and a commitment to his wife and his children, and if roofing houses was the way he best knew how to fulfill that, then that was what he was going to do.

And so it’s with my dad in mind that I set out to start rounding up some more work today.

My family deserves nothing less.

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4 responses

16 09 2009
Jennifer Brindley

I love it! I have more thoughts but I will post them later when my head isn’t full of stuffed up congestion gunk.

26 09 2009
Alice

Maybe I’m a little sentimental because my grandfather was a minister as well, but that teared me up a bit. Thanks for sharing a part of yourself.

23 10 2009
Metal Roofing Materials

Great metaphore! Love the story!

23 10 2009
Shirley

Rob, what an authentic, touching post. Inspirational, but certainly practical. Here’s to much business.

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