A Life Well Run

Feb 29, 2024

I’m sitting on a flight to South Dakota as I type this. Just this morning, my wife received a call from her mom, telling us that her dad has taken a turn for the worse and only has a little time remaining before he hears “well done, good and faithful servant”. Since that call, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of changing commitments, covering responsibilities, and working out the logistics for us to be there to say goodbye. As I am finally able to sit in silence on this flight, I’ve come to realize the extent of which my mind and heart are full.

If you’ve been reading my thoughts for very long, you know that I adore my wife. She’s kind, loving, smart, patient, and smoking hot. While she’s unique in her totality, much of what makes her amazing is passed on from her parents. This week, I’d like to tell you about my father-in-law, Doyle Spader, and his life well run.

While I won’t spend much time on Doyle’s years before I met him 20 years ago, here are a few facts about him. He grew up in South Dakota in a family with 15 kids. He would grind the grains and make amazing bread from scratch. He made coffee strong enough to put hair on a lot of places you don’t need it. He served his career in missions to military servicemen with stops in California, Germany, Denver, and more before finishing his career serving at Ellsworth Airforce Base outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. Those are parts of his history, but they don’t tell you who he was and why I, along with so many others, have been so blessed by him. For that, I’d like to focus on 3 traits that, if we all embraced like Doyle did, would make the world a better place.

The first trait is generosity. Doyle just gave. A story we chuckle about from time to time is when Doyle met a person who needed a vacuum. Doyle generously gave their own personal vacuum without hesitation. What he didn’t give was Chris (my wonderful mother-in-law), a heads-up that they no longer had a vacuum! While she is also a willing giver, she wasn’t impressed with giving away their vacuum without a replacement strategy. Doyle always found ways to give without hesitation and by doing so, filled the needs of many.

The second trait is service. Doyle ALWAYS found new ways to serve. One of my favorite ways was to work with multiple chaplains to create a coffee shop on base called Higher Grounds. This coffee shop didn’t sell coffee, it sold protection. Doyle knew that young airmen are vulnerable to the draw of spending their paycheck at the local strip club or trying to find connections in the wrong place. Doyle understood the stresses the airmen faced and the loneliness that could accompany it, so when he created Higher Grounds, he filled it with a pool table, gaming systems, lounge areas, and no cost. Every bit of coffee or tea was on the house. Additionally, he regularly cooked meals for over 40 soldiers to give them the feeling of a “family” meal. He gave them a place to build friendships and escape external pressures. Finally, as the soldiers matured, he recruited them into helping to run the facility, eventually handing it off to them entirely upon his retirement. He left a legacy and helped countless soldiers know they are loved, valuable, and not alone.

The final trait was patience. I’m sure that his over-confident, direct, and still learning son-in-law (that would be me) certainly tested it from time to time over the past 20 years, but he always provided patient feedback. He patiently guided me in my immature faith as a younger man gently guiding me to the understanding I have today. Doyle didn’t stop with me. I witnessed an abundance of times in which he patiently gave wise council in the way that only those with a little patina can. His patience gave him the opportunity to council when the situation moderated.

My son asked why my eyes had tears in them as I’m typing and it’s because I’m sad for the loss we will have, but full of joy that the cancer won’t be giving him any more pain as he begins eternity with our LORD. I know that I haven’t been mature enough to absorb everything he had to offer, but I’m thankful for what I was able to receive.

Before I get to this week’s 3-part challenge I want to take a moment to say thank you to the amazing friends, coworkers, and business associates that I’ve interacted with. Your willingness to immediately offer help and create flexibility in your own lives to accommodate the schedule change is appreciated and your prayers mean more than you know.

Now on to this week’s challenges…

1. Take some time this week to tell the “Doyle” of your life how much they mean to you. You truly never know when that opportunity will be gone.

2. Choose someone to bless with intentional generosity. Maybe it’s one of your friends who could use a boost, or maybe someone on the team that you could bring a donut. It doesn't take much and watching Doyle has taught me that most times, the giver gets more than the gifted.

3. Choose an intentional act of service to bless someone with. There is opportunity wherever you are. Service doesn’t cost anything other than willingness and time and if we are intentional there are plenty of both available.

You may be wondering about patience, and to that I’ll say you’ll just have to wait and see if we get to that later 😉.

I’m thankful that you were willing to go to work today, that you took the time to read this, and for being a part of what this world wonderful!