person digging on soil using garden shovel
Photo by Lisa Fotios on


The Work of Shoveling

by Warren E. Berkley

My childhood days (birth to 18) were spent in the 1700 block of “Q” street in Fort Smith, Arkansas. In the course of our simple lives, we were honored to witness many intriguing people. One man I remember was Hank. He seemed to me to be an old man. He lived with his wife and son in a poorer neighborhood.

Hank had a shovel. Each morning, except for Sunday, he would get up early and walk around town with his shovel, offering his services shoveling for whatever anyone would pay. Sometimes he would go door to door, asking if anything needed to be shoveled. If he knew a place where soil was being moved or construction might require shoveling, he would visit that location and use the single tool of his trade. He had some regular customers when gardening time came, and the local cemeteries were on his route. But mostly, he would just walk through neighborhoods with his shovel hoping to find some work. (A good winter snow was a way to put back a few dollars.)

Now Hank – as far as I know – never added any other tools to his trade. He never did upgrade his business from one shovel to a hoe, wheel-barrel or lawn-mower. Hank was a specialist. He fed his family and paid the bills by shoveling.

As a little boy, I remember thinking that was pathetic. My daddy had a regular office job as an accountant, plus his work as a skilled carpenter. He was a good cook, sold Bibles and was a capable photographer. My neighborhood was mostly populated by families supported by skilled laborers (train engineers, truck drivers, retailers and plumbers). Hank shoveled.

I have a respect for Hank now that I wasn’t capable of when I was ten. He did what he could do. As far as I know, he was honest and resisted charity. He would not beg or take more than standard wages. He sought nothing but what he needed; enjoyed no status or recognition and made himself useful.

Do what you can with what you have. God honors that (1 Pet. 4:10).



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