Early during my time at seminary, I saw an ad on the seminary bulletin board placed by a local family looking for someone to work about twenty hours a week gardening, cleaning, driving, and other odd jobs. I went for the interview and was hired.
My first day on the job, I met Enoch. Eighty-three at the time, Enoch had been widowed many years earlier and he lived alone. Until recently, he'd been the organist for his small Baptist church but he'd been forced to quit because his hands had become gnarled by arthritis and could no longer spread across the keys.
Enoch's entire life consisted of being at the beck and call of the family we worked for. The difference between Enoch and the other two people they employed was that we were paid an hourly wage and had daytime hours. Enoch, though, was given a car with all the car's expenses covered, and also a small gift each Christmas. For that he spent sixteen hours a day, weekdays, weekends, and holidays "holding down the fort" as he'd put it.
He did some work in the garden--the formal rose and dahlia garden was his turf. But usually, he'd sit in the breakfast room reading the Bible. He had a system I've taken up in part. Each time he finished a chapter, he'd mark it with a check mark. And something I haven't copied: he'd use a different colored magic marker each year. Almost every chapter in his Bible had at least five check marks at its head.
I'd open the sliding glass doors and walk into the breakfast room and Enoch would greet me with a cheerful, "Well, how are you?" We'd catch up on news. It was always sweet to talk to Enoch but as time went on I noticed there was never, ever any family news. Church news, yes--but no family news. Finally, one day I put the question to him directly: "Enoch, do you have any children?"