I think I was eight years old. I have an almost multi-sensory memory of cleaning wall paper in the house on Grant Street in Alliance, Ohio, with a few other kids and a bunch of adults.
It was the first project of a group called Alliance Better Homes, and my parents had invited me along to help. A few people from my church had banded together with a few other concerned citizens, and Grant was in a neighborhood bordering “one side of the tracks” and the other, dividing the city roughly along racial lines.
The family who had bought the home and was going to live in it was working hand-in-hand with the volunteer group renovating and refurbishing the house. Years before Habitat for Humanity, I was seeing “sweat equity” at work.
This was life with my parents, Marilyn and Chris King.
Suspicious as I am of pride and resume-padding among affluent people of the present day, it would be natural for me to question their motivations for being do-gooders. And I have. But service is such a consistent thread throughout their lives that, since my dad died a week ago Wednesday, I’ve reflected a LOT on his impact on me—and it’s just THERE, looming so large, for so long, that I can’t ignore it.
I’ve written elsewhere (http://www.the-review.com/obituaries/2017/01/07/dr-christopher-king) of my dad’s many accomplishments, but the sheer number of memories I have of serving with them and watching them lead others in service leaves me with no doubt about where I caught the service-bug.
Slides of my dad’s post-medical school stint with CARE-Medico in Algeria in the early 60s combine with images of him cutting lumber and nailing siding on one of the many Habitat projects he was involved in during the 1990s and early 2000s. Pictures of meals in Himalayan villages in Nepal blend with photos and memories of Rotary exchange students and an inner-city child from Canton who spent time one summer living with us.
The thing I remember most was the adventurousness, the prospect that we might learn something new as a family, or draw closer together, or somehow be changed by what we did in serving others. Somehow, his perfectionism when it came to eye surgery was no barrier to trying new things with my mom. They sought out not just the chance to do good for others, but to really get out of their comfort zone.
When I think about what I chose (or was chosen) to do for a living, I think my parents’ modeling of service has played a huge role in God’s calling in my life.
And for that I’m extremely thankful, because it’s made my own life so rich and meaningful.