In the spring of 1982 I felt like I was getting ready to take on the world. I had just finished my time at Vincennes University (VU). Having left the Army after thirteen years in the October of 1978 I started my adventure at VU January 1979. I finished with an AS in Business Management, an AS in Recreation and Leisure Services and quite a few classes in Commercial Art. Being in my thirties I was much older than most of my classmates. Not bad for a high school dropout with a GED.
Surviving school was and adventure. I worked nightshift full time as a bartender at the local American Legion. Days when not in classes I did yard work and landscaping. I bought ten new canoes thru the local boat dealer. My fellow students had time to go on canoe trips over the weekends. I dropped them off and picked them up when they were done. It was not making me rich, but it helped make ends meet. Having a family of six my obligations did not allow me the carefree college life of my fellow students.
My goal had been to start a company making playground furniture out of timbers. It got sidetracked by the reality of life. I expanded my landscaping and started a mobile home repair business. Stumbled into residential tree trimming which paid well. I had the equipment and my partner had the talent to climb and cut. He convinced me to quit my bartending job so we could go full time. The next month he got called back to his union job and left me hanging. I expanded into building custom decks, which fit with the landscaping and mowing. One problem I had was that all my businesses were seasonal or summer work. I cut firewood and basically did whatever I could to survive each winter.
In spite of all the hassle of trying to survive I felt truly blessed. In the spring of 1983 I was mowing a yard and the thought crossed my mind I should be giving some of my money to the church. I did not attend one at that time. As I picked up the paper before mowing I found an unsealed and open envelope with a stamp on it addressed to Oral Roberts. I never cared for Oral Roberts, though my Mom did. Feeling that it was a sign I started sending Oral Roberts money. That lasted till I started getting calls at my home asking for more money than I had sent. Later sharing that story someone said it was probably just a coincidence and that someone had probably stole the original money. That thought had never crossed my mind. If that was the case who was the blessed person, Oral Roberts or the person who’s money I replaced. Over the years I have found I am just as capable as the church at finding people in need and helping them. If I do it more of the money gets to those with needs. The church still needs help though. The problem I have with most churches is their focus on building programs. Yes we are to build the church, but it is a church of people, not stones and mortar. When you look at all the money being spent on TV ministries, many with their feel good, get rich messages are leading people astray. Read the 13th Chapter of Ezekiel and you will see what God thinks of false ministries.
My ministry out on the road was simple. When going into the truck stop to eat I would look for the person sitting on their bags. Or for one who looked lost, or down and out. There never seemed to be a shortage of them. I would invite them to eat with me and that gave me a chance to find out their story. I would always pay for the meal. If I was moved or felt they had a legitimate need I would give them more than enough to pay for the meal and tell them to keep the change. It was not much but it helped. Lacking that kind of person to help I would look around the restaurant. If I saw a large family with well-behaved kids I would have the waitress bring me their bill and I would pay it. It may not have been the perfect ministry but at least I was doing something.
Getting back on track, things boomed for me the next few years. It went well till my wife talked me into going to a family cookout. I had grown to the point I needed part time help for a lot of the work I was doing. At the cookout was a group of bikers. They had a club house and there was always someone who needed some money to either fix their bike or party. I did not care which the case was. I paid by the job and they got the same money if we worked two hours or five hours. They were motivated, smart and hard workers. The problem was I started hanging with them. Work slowly became secondary. The road to the bottom was starting down a long hill.
It ended at the absolute bottom. After spending six months living in a van in Fort Meyers, FL I came home and turned my van into the bank. I had caught up my bills while I was in Florida. One bank had sued me and the court sent me a letter to be in court or be held in contempt. So I quit my job and came back to Indiana. Where I had no job and no prospect of getting one.
When I reached that low I was sitting on the bank of the Wabash River at a local park and made my peace with God. I told him I had nothing but my time. I restarted my life by giving ten percent of my time to studying His Word. In less than three years I had recovered all I had lost and was starting over. I went door to door looking for work. It led to a job as a warehouse worker for a local moving company. From that I moved into trucking which is what I did until I retired. I learned to drive a truck while I was running from God and in Vietnam.
This post basically covers the transitional years from when I left the Army till I started truck driving for a living. It fills in a gap in my book and gives the basics of how I got from one part of my life to the next. It had been my intent to drive a truck when I left the service. I took a terminal leave and worked for a guy for sixty days for basically free to show I could do the job. When my discharge was final his boss would not let him hire me because of my lack of civilian experience. Later in time that experience would benefit me more than once. The guy who had given me the chance finally had his own company and he recommended me to one of his truck owners as a driver. That job opened the door later in my career by giving me experience pulling a refrigerated unit. I was disappointed when I got out of the service and it did not work out to drive, it all did work for the good in the long run. God is always tending to the hedge around our lives. Our walk with him determines how he trims it. It can be a hedge of protection, or a hedge of correction. If you look at my last post and read the scriptures listed at the end concerning hedges you will learn a lot about how God works in our lives. It is only nine verses or chapters. If you read it with the desire to get understanding it will open your eyes. There is a verse in the Bible that says we reap what we sow. If you look back over your life you will see that what you have planted or given out is exactly what you have harvested. If you have just come to know the Lord, start praying for crop failure on any bad seed. Then pray it is not to late.
It was not the first time, nor the last time. God has often used experiences from my past to open doors in my life. He has also kept doors closed in my life till he knew I was prepared to go through them. In the Bible it says the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord and all things work together for good to them that believe. Sometimes we will not even know it is happening. At least not till we look back over a long period of time and see the whole thing in a different perspective. The farther I walk along the path of life the more times I can see that what I sometimes thought were bad things actually worked in my favor. As the country song says, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” He knows what is best for us and what we have need of.
A lot of things happened in this short seven year period of my life. Looking back I can see that my life was being rearranged to my benefit. Many of my future experiences would be influenced by the events happening during this time period and leading up to it. Even my last year in the Army when I was assigned to write stories for the command newspaper in Panama would play out and open doors for me. It is opening writing doors because I can honestly say I have experience writing for a newspaper. The experiences themselves are providing substance for stories. Hopefully the stories I write are not just about me and my experiences, but examples that will help others to avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced and was lucky enough to walk away from.