“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.” – Romans 5:3-4
Once around age ten or eleven my boyhood best pal Steve and I had an idea that involved digging a deep hole on a nearby vacant lot. But first, being the honest young citizens we were, we went to the property owner who very kindly granted us permission, provided we would fill it back in when we were finished with our fun. Thus, with picks and shovels from our parents’ toolsheds we began our dig. Now this was not to be some small shallow foxhole. No, indeed, we had a grand plan, to create our own secret camouflaged underground hideout. It took us weeks of grueling labor, but when completed it was over our heads in depth, and about four feet wide and six feet long. Afterwards we found some old railroad ties and scrap sheet metal to lay across the top, then covered it with dirt so it was invisible, except for a small opening with a ladder that led down inside.
On a previous occasion and a different vacant lot the two of us had built a clubhouse, using wood from an old dilapidated barn, again with permission from the respective property owners. It also took us several weeks to complete, the end result being probably the ugliest structure ever on the face of the earth. But complete it we did, fully functional, with a wooden floor, door, window, trapdoor on top, two camping stools as furniture, and even a picture hanging on the wall.
Both these projects were not undertaken without full parental support. One of my favorite memories, in fact, was Steve’s mother showing up at our worksite one day, Steve’s red Radio Flyer wagon in tow, containing delicious homecooked food served on dinner plates, plus dessert and iced tea in mason jars, all for two starving young lads.
While sharing lunch with my old friend recently, as we occasionally do, I marveled how we had both — miraculously! — grown up to become men of good character, deep faith, and full of hope and joy. It brought to mind the hole and the clubhouse, long ago filled in and torn down, the perseverance each required, and the character that developed from those experiences. I have to believe our parents in their wisdom must surely have seen this as an opportunity for us to learn a great lesson . . . “that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”