The Reverend Leslie Fields, Sr. was born on March 29, 1912 in Alabama. He traveled north to New York State during the late 1930s looking for work. Upon finding work, he was then able to send for his wife, Barbara Mae Fields, and their small children. Though they could be bounced in and out of apartments during their early years, he and my grandmother managed to raise nine children.
Much more could be shared in the interim, but in March, 2005, my grandparents celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. My grandmother, one of the most influential people in my life, passed away later that same year.
“The meaning of his work was derived from relationships
outside of the work itself.”
For most of his life, Rev. Fields was a janitor and a junk-dealer. He could also work at tailoring, carpentry, and snow-plowing duties, but his primary occupations would not be labeled by many today as “meaningful employment.” The meaning of his work, however, was derived from relationships outside of the work itself. He was effective in all that he did and, more importantly, his work helped provide for his family and many times, his grandchildren. I am the eldest of sixty-five grandchildren and although there were times when my family had to stay with my grandparents, I never heard him complain about the work that he did. I had heard him say on a couple of occasions: “You know, Bruce, sometimes I feel like getting in my truck and just driving away. But the good Lord would have me stay.”
He personally taught the majority of his grandchildren how to fish. His philosophy was that if we could fish, we would not go hungry. Many times we hooked our lines to rocks and branches in the water that we could not dislodge. He patiently would help us get our equipment back together and then get back to his own fishing. He repeated this process even with younger grandchildren until late in life.
While I attended school from the second grade until the ninth grade, my grandfather would reward me with fifty cents for every “good” report card I brought home. Fifty cents even during those years was some real change. I gained much over those years. He could have easily done other things with his meager earnings but it was a powerful encouragement to me. Government provided the schools and the fine teachers that I had, but my primary motivation came from the fact that I simply did not want to disappoint my grandfather and the rest of my family.
For years he was a deacon at Beautiful Plain Baptist Church where I grew up and he started his own church at the age of sixty. He put up with much in his church during his years of ministry before he stopped preaching when he turned ninety-five years old.
Reverend Fields passed away January 13, 2011, at the ripe old age of ninety-eight. He prayed and worked for his family and friends for many years. By the standard of some, he did not live a life of “flourishing” to the extent the he could have. But his sacrifices are primary reasons for why this seminary professor is where he is and has what he has. My grandfather and grandmother did not get to live the life that they themselves deserved, but they provided situations of empowerment for me and many others throughout their lives.