Who Inspires You?


 An inspiration: John Casey and his father-in-law: Robert Gene Olson

Although my father-in-law, Robert Gene Olson,  has been gone almost eight years now, I still think about him almost daily. Though he’s gone, his ordinary life is still touching me. Because of him, I realize that my ordinary life has such power, too. Bob was not perfect. Sometimes he was demanding and critical. But those memories are not coming to mind now. Rather, I am thinking of how he lived his life, generous with his skill and affirmation.

By trade, Bob was a tool and die maker. With metal, machines, wood and pipe, Bob could do anything. Over the years, Bob and I did numerous projects together. One spring, he traveled down from Minnesota to Illinois and spent three weeks helping me remodel our kitchen. Another year, trimming new windows I had installed, he made a “jig” which allowed us to nail and glue up the trim like a picture frame and then install it over each window. He was clever with tools, an amazing servant. I liked him and liked working with him.

I remember the subtle clues that he liked me … believed in me. Though not an academic, he would often ask me, “When are you going to get your doctorate?” From him, I received this as affirmation, not pressure. From his years as a volunteer church leader, he knew the stress of being a pastor and was concerned for his daughter. But when he visited, his comments let on that he was proud of me. Every young man needs a “father” who is proud of him. In Bob, I had that.

Now in Colorado, a hospital chaplain, in my off hours I am remodeling our house — just like Bob did in his early 60s. With help from me and others, Bob turned their 1940’s flat-top cottage into a beautiful lake home. Most mornings, before I head to the hospital for my evening shift, I work on our house — tearing off siding, installing windows, building the deck, constructing a fireplace mantel, planning the new kitchen, and more. Trimming windows, I think of how Bob and I did it. Replacing siding, I recall how I helped Bob with siding on his house. When I solve a big problem —like how to repair a laminate floor where the company no longer makes what I have — I think of Bob and imagine his pride in me. I miss Bob. I wish he were doing this remodeling with me. But as I am working on the house and remembering him, I feel deeply happy — such a good man, so much fun, so skilled, a man whose pride and joy in others leaked out so beautifully.

Last night, I was at Jim’s bedside. His breath growing quiet and his four daughters recalling wonderful times with him — like the time all six of them squeezed into a two-man tent in the pouring rain. With their stories they cried, as I did when Bob died. A day is coming when their sadness will become faint and the volume of their pleasant, inspiring memories of dad will rise. Their dad, the engineer who designed power steering and patiently laced up their ski boots, is now gone physically but very much present spiritually — as Bob is to me.

This reality inspires me. I want to live my one life growing through my areas of brokenness, doing what I love, and blessing those around me so that I leave family and friends pleasant memories of times we shared, work we did together, and clear indications that I loved them and loved being with them.  Shakespeare achieved immortality by what he wrote. I’m no Shakespeare, but like Bob, as I grow and live well, the power of my life will touch others long after I am gone.

Questions, men:

  • Who are the good people now gone who still inspire you?
  • What are the admirable qualities you see in them?
  • Imagining a time when you have been gone from earth for a number of years, what’s a growth step you want to take now

– By John Casey

John completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2005, is a graduate of our two-year transformational program and is a weekend leader for The Crucible Project. He enjoys writing about authentic living for men. As a senior pastor for 32 years, he has written and preached hundreds of sermons on God’s character and mission, our purpose and mission, spiritual transformation and effective relationships.

Photo Credit: Photo used with permission from John Casey