Things my father taught me

by Ros West

A father helping his daughter hammer a nail

I don’t remember my father verbally teaching me anything, but he didn’t need to, for as the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. He never joined the Church and though missionaries and members were welcome to come to our home to visit my mother and me, as they walked in the front door he would walk out of the back. Yet he taught me many great gospel principles.

Born at the outbreak of the First World War, he received only the very basic formal education. That finished when aged fourteen, while understanding it would greatly reduce his chances of earning a good living. Frugality however was bred in him; everything had a use, even when its original purpose was no longer possible. Volunteering for the RAF in World War II, he made full use of discarded parachutes. Silk from the canopies was given to my mother to make baby dresses, while my father wove the cords into table mats. He repaired our shoes and built cupboards and shelves from wood salvaged from demolition sites. He grew our needed fruit and vegetables in a garden, which the local Anglican church allowed him to use in return for growing flowers to decorate their magnificent medieval minster.

My father did not believe in accepting government handouts. While he was fit and able, he believed he should meet the needs of himself, my mother and me. It meant long hours, working at least two jobs until he finally retired at eighty-one. He had his own one-man business, travelling through the villages near where we lived, selling hardware out of the back of a small van. His customers were mainly agricultural workers living on very low wages. Frequently they couldn’t afford to pay him. and he would come home with a rabbit, some eggs and, on one occasion a chair, given in place of cash. In turn, his compassionate heart was rewarded by the boss of his second job. Early mornings and evenings he would gut fish and pluck chickens, for which he was paid a wage and given gifts of fish, crab, and chicken.

In the mid-1950s my parents were picked at random to take part in a government household expenditure survey. Our completed form was returned for “obvious corrections”, as it was judged that three people could not live on such a small cash income (less than what social security would pay). But they didn’t know my parents and their ability to make something out of nothing (“summat out nowt”). They also didn’t know our neighbours, who were of higher economic standing, and who appreciated my parent’s honesty, integrity, compassion, and hard work, consequently putting work their way and providing much of our clothing needs.

The Lord blesses those who keep his commandments, whether they know they are doing so or not. My father lived the second great commandment (“thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” – Matthew 19:19) and taught me, as the Lord did Adam and Eve, that we “shall eat his bread by the sweat of thy brow” (Moses 5:1).