The toolbox, a mere namesake in our household, represented something quintessentially Dad – an embodiment of good intentions without the handiness to match. His approach to fixing things leaned heavily on the expertise of neighbors, handymen, or virtually anyone else. Painting? Perhaps that was within his realm, to an extent. But actual repairs, constructions, or the artful employment of tools as our Homo sapiens ancestors intended? That was a different story altogether. Yet, there it was – a toolbox in the fullest sense of the word.
From what lingers in my memory, the toolbox was a sturdy steel Craftsman construction, its heavy lid secured by two simple clasps. Inside, a liftable tray revealed a deeper compartment, a sort of childhood cavern where myriad objects found their home. It functioned, for all practical purposes, as a portable junk drawer. Filled with spare screws, odd pipe fittings – eleven little copper elbows, with the twelfth now a permanent fixture under the kitchen sink – along with an assortment of twist ties and fasteners. However, the toolbox's real surprise lay in its sparse inventory: just two tools and both hammers. A hefty carpenter’s framing hammer and a rubber mallet. The rubber mallet's purpose remained a mystery, but the framing hammer, oh, it had its moments – a quick fix here, whack there, or a forceful adjustment to the immovable this or that.
This very toolbox, sparse as it was, likely sparked my own tool-fixation, a drive to be at least modestly handy. Sifting through Dad’s toolbox, recognizing its ineffectiveness, was a moment of awakening. Over the past thirty years, I’ve amassed an eclectic collection in my own toolbox – planes, rabbet and block, a spokeshave, cabinet scrapers, and not one, but three distinct hammers. My toolbox is a testament to preparedness, equipped for frequent troubles and even those unlikely to ever materialize.
Reflecting on Dad’s humble toolbox has led me to introspect about my Christian faith. I possess a broader toolset than many a believer – Greek and Hebrew, an expansive knowledge of historical periods and geographies, an understanding of theological nuances and church protocols. My spiritual toolbox is brimming. Yet, in the light of Dad’s simple, almost barren toolbox, I can’t help but question: is more really better?
In confronting life’s vast and varied challenges, from domestic upheavals to global crises, I often reach for my metaphorical toolbox. I ponder over the countless parish tempests in the proverbial teapots. Perhaps Dad’s philosophy, albeit with a different set of tools, holds a profound truth. What if, in the grand scheme of things, love is the only tool that truly matters? When one approach fails, perhaps all we need to do is reach back into that toolbox for another iteration of the same powerful, yet simple tool. Amidst all the complexities and strategies, the Christian toolbox might just need two tools, both fundamentally the same. When one seems inadequate, we simply try the other – a continuous cycle of reaching in, grasping, and beginning anew and always with love in hand.