Essay: Doing Your Duty

Mar 15, 2019

Every Sunday afternoon when I was a kid, my father went to visit his father—a widower who lived alone.  Sometimes our whole family went to see Grandpa Anderson, but often it was just my dad.  The two men weren’t close and I don’t know what they found to talk about.


Soren Anderson had emigrated to this country from Denmark at age 18, finally settling down in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and working as a cabinet maker.  He kept his job all through the Great Depression and saved enough money to send my father to college. 

The two men weren’t close but my father never missed a Sunday—not because he enjoyed going necessarily, but because it was his duty.  Whether he and his dad had much in common or had interesting conversations was beside the point. 

When I grew up, however, I didn’t visit my dad much.  We were often at odds and I could never seem to please him so I stayed away.  Although I admired my father for doing his duty, I didn’t do mine.

Now I think I was wrong.  Now I think that duty is something you do because it’s the right thing to do—not because it’s comfortable or convenient.  Not because my dad and I were close but because he was my dad.