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Holten: The Lessons in Life

"We are all teachers and preachers, whether we know it or not,'" writes Kevin Holten.

Kevin Holten
Kevin Holten
We are part of The Trust Project.

Did you know that death is life’s greatest teacher? And that’s because it is death that teaches us all about life and in some cases, if we are receptive enough, about our life’s purpose.

You see, last Saturday I was sitting graveside at my father’s burial. And it was Pastor Gloria Espeseth’s graveside words that revealed to me what was just so obvious and had always been right there in front of me.

What she revealed to me was that my father was a teacher in a classroom and that he had a ministry. A classroom and a ministry that I had previously never recognized.

And what she also revealed was that we, every single one of us, are teachers in this world. Plus, we all have a ministry.

In my father’s case, he owned a Standard Oil Bulk dealership and so, he delivered bulk quantities of fuel to ranchers and farmers every day. And invariably, after he filled their tanks, he sat down and had coffee with them.

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This was at a time when getting to town was not as frequent as it is now, and so he was a friendly face when they needed one and a source of news, not gossip, that kept them informed.

Early on my father had a plane that he equipped with skis in the winter. And once and a while, after a big snowstorm, he flew in supplies for stranded farmers and even flew a pregnant woman to town to have her baby at a hospital.

He also owned a crop spraying business and so he and we contributed to the yields that the farmers later harvested.

But my father was not a talker or a preacher. He was a listener and a reader of words and of situations. And so, his teaching and ministry in his unique classroom was mostly by example rather than by words.

He taught people about trust by being, at one time or another, a diligent city treasurer, school board treasurer, and church treasurer.

He taught people about perseverance and hope by surviving a major explosion at the age of 50 that doctors said he’d never survive.

He taught people about respect by doing little things like always wearing dress shoes on Sundays rather than boots, attending church regularly, not swearing, not frequenting bars and having coffee with my grandmother every morning.

He taught people about contentment by being positive and not complaining. And he taught us about love by always making sacrifices for our behalf.

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But he was not so unique in his generation. You all have fathers and mother’s who’ve done the same things, especially in small towns in America.

They were all teachers, and we are all teachers and preachers, whether we know it or not.

You see, our lives are not really our own. Life is not so much about doing what we want, or like Frank Sinatra and Elvis used to sing, “doing it our way”. It’s about doing what we are equipped to do because we are all pieces in a puzzle.

Heavyweight Champion Boxer, Muhammad Ali, once said that service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. Rather, your service to others is the gratitude you express for the free gift you are given of an everlasting home in Heaven.

That’s the bottom line and that’s what my dad’s death taught me.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.

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“From the Hawks’ Nest” is a monthly column by Dickinson State University President Steve Easton