The Little Wooden Boot

by John C. Westervelt

If the little wooden boot could speak, these are stories it would share. A few months ago, a good friend called to tell me that she and her husband had sold their home and were packing things for the move to a retirement home. She said, "John, we just can’t take everything with us. I would like for you to have the little boot you carved for me to give to one of your grandchildren."

Of course, I was pleased to get the boot, but more pleased that my friend had enjoyed displaying the hand carved boot in her home for twenty-seven years. She had even added a leather colored flower standing in the hollow of the boot.

Another story is how I became a woodcarver. I went to work for Rockwell in Tulsa in 1962 as the Apollo Space program began. Not long after the moon landing in 1969, I had the unpleasant task of laying off a hundred engineers and draftsmen, all good friends. As the layoffs proceeded over a couple of years, I slipped into depression, thinking my turn was next.

Doctors and medications provided some relief, but the biggest help was Nelda’s encouraging me to attend a woodcarving class. With hands that had used tools since boyhood, woodcarving was natural for me. Carving hands made good therapy.

In 1977, the Asbury Missions Commission offered a program of talents. The Missions Commission would give you five, ten, or twenty talents (dollars). In three months you were to return what you had earned with your talent. I asked for ten dollars, bought a two-inch thick piece of basswood, and began to carve in earnest. I sold fourteen 4" boots for $10 each and fifteen 2" boots for $5 each. Most sales were to friends in the Joy Sunday school class.

I felt a joy in earning twenty times the talent given to me. A greater joy was hearing acknowledgements by friends of their pleasure in displaying my boot in their homes.

My depression slowly improved over several years, but wasn’t fully under control until I finally was laid off from Rockwell and found challenging engineering work at Amoco Research Laboratories in Tulsa. I moved into an office recently vacated by a man who had retired. Looking back, the answer to my prayer that I had not heard may have been that God was waiting for this job to become available. Also, God may have known that I needed to experience depression, so I could understand the depression that overcame Nelda in 1987.

Now in my middle seventies, I ask Jesus each day to increase my faith, for this is an age of health concerns for my colleagues and me. He has been faithful to grow my faith. Today I wonder, "If I had had a stronger faith in the 1970s, could I have avoided the pain of depression? Or does the testing of one’s faith come before the increase in faith?"

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