Recently we lost a man who impacted the lives of our sons – Richard Jinks. Richard had his own lawn mowing service. When our sons were teens, he hired them to help him during the summer. Our boys used the summer job to cover their college costs.
Our first son to mow with him, Mark, once thanked Richard for hiring him, saying, “Any time I thought about dropping out of college, I remember that summer of mowing.”
Richard just grinned and said, “You’re welcome for that summer.”
He often said that he enjoyed helping kids like that.
Our youngest son Nathan also mowed with Richard, enjoyed the experience and finished college as well.
After Richard passed, Nathan sent me the following thoughts.
A long time ago, I was asked by Richard Jinks for a letter of recommendation. I meant to write it later when I got around to it. I never took the time to write the letter, partly because I was not sure what to say. I now know what to say and here it is:
To whom it may concern:
I understand that Richard Jinks is up for promotion. I hope that you will consider what I have to say.
Richard Jinks is amazing in many ways. I have known him from my youth. He is a good leader. He demonstrates a desire to develop community through work at church. I could tell stories of his ability to draw or develop men of character by taking boys into the woods and showing them survival techniques. His lawn service demonstrates his diligence in providing for his family.
However, that is not the best understanding of Richard. Initially I thought his character would be summed up in his ability to tell a story, but still there is much more. The first day I went to work Mr. Jinks clearly demonstrated his character better than any other synopsis I have seen.
It was early in the morning. I was used to my old push mower at home, so once I started the mower, I knew to push. But I dared not push the lever because I did not want to kill the motor. On that first job, there was a hill that was better for demonstrating gravity than for pushing a professional mower across.
Richard observed as I pushed, that the mower drifted downhill rather than making the nice smooth back and forth cuts I was supposed to make. He said, “Hey, Nate, why don’t you push that lever?” I responded that I did not want to kill the engine – but I gave it a try at his admonition.
Rather than die, as I had expected, the mower practically jerked out of my hand, surging forward to cut the grass. Cutting the grass on the hill afterward was easier because the mower did all the work as I walked behind it.
This makes a fun story, but we are just now getting to the reason for this recommendation. Richard’s character really shines in his reflection on this mundane event.
He pointed out that I “was cutting grass without using the self-propelling mechanism in the same way people sometimes try to push through life, on their own, doing it without God. Trust in God will not kill mojo, rather He is the power for life when circumstances are pulling us down,” Richard said.
In a way, Richard’s insight animates what Jesus meant when he said “my yoke is easy.”
That lesson sticks with me, and the application is so universal that I share this story in many situations. When I am trying to be good enough on my own, rather than trusting in Jesus’ sufficiency, this is my reminder. This letter of recommendation is unnecessary for him now that he has passed on. Besides, his life serves as a pointer to Christ – He is the true letter of recommendation. Richard knows that even more now than he did when he was with us.
Since Jesus took care of Richard’s letter of recommendation a long time ago, I share this letter here to encourage others with Richard’s lesson. Embrace life. Love your family. But most of all rely on God and listen for His word however it comes. We are leaving a legacy. I hope that mine and yours point to Christ in such a marked way as Richard Jinks.
(Written with Nathan Hershberger. Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)