Our daughter, Clarissa, called me. “Dad, would it bother you if I became a plumber?”
“Why would that bother me?” I asked.
“Well, I thought it might after all those years of education if I just set it aside to do something else.”
I laughed. “Have I ever told you the story of the plumber and the doctor?” She said I hadn’t, so I shared it.
“There was a doctor that was building a new house. A plumber came and did all the plumbing work. When he finished, he handed the doctor the bill. The doctor gasped. ‘You’ve got to be kidding! I’m a surgeon, and I don’t even make these kind of wages.’ The plumber nodded. ‘I know what you mean. I didn’t when I was a surgeon either.’”
Clarissa laughed. “That’s a good one.”
“I really don’t care what you do, as long as it is honorable and you work to be the best you can.”
“But don’t you feel all of my education will be wasted?” she asked.
“Education is never wasted,” I said. “Learning is always beneficial in its own right. And I have found from personal experience that often even the smallest thing I learn comes back to benefit my life in simple, but powerful, ways.”
We had a fun conversation, and when I hung up, I thought about her. To be honest, it didn’t surprise me that she made this move. Of all our children, she was probably the one that loved outdoor, physical kind of work the most. She had from the time she was small.
When she was four years old, I was adding on to our house. She was our eighth child, and with some added foster children we took in, the house seemed rather small. We received bids on the cost for contractors to do the addition, but none were in a price range we could afford. So we decided that if we were going to do it, I would have to build it myself.
In the winter, I worked during the week and got home after dark. So it was almost impossible to get anything done then. But on Saturdays, I got up early, grabbed a little breakfast, and headed out to build. The first thing I had to do was shovel the snow out so I had room to work.
The minute Clarissa saw me getting ready to build, she would go get her snowsuit. Usually, at that age, she ended up getting it all mixed up, backward and upside down. I would leave it to her mother to get her untangled and warmly dressed. Then Clarissa would come out to “help” me.
Of course, at that age, the word ‘help’ is taken loosely, but if it wasn’t something dangerous, I would put nails or something in her mittened hands to hold for me until I needed them. If I was doing something dangerous, like lifting a wall I built, I insisted she sit over on the steps safely out of the way. To have something to do while sitting there, she made up knock-knock jokes to tell me. I think my sanity level dropped a few notches that winter. If you have heard knock-knock jokes made up by a four-year-old, you understand what I mean.
But I did enjoy her company. When she looked like she was getting cold, I’d send her in to get warm, but it wasn’t long before she would return.
Since the day of the phone call, she has become a good plumber. Now and then, she will send us pictures of herself up to her knees in mud, working on a broken water pipe or something similar. She is smiling as she works at getting it fixed.
And indeed, I am not the least bit surprised.