In honor of my father, his story of turning obstacles into opportunities

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It has been six years since my father passed away, at the age of 95. He was a powerful force who embraced Judaism and firmly believed in sticking with your beliefs even when the going gets tough.

My dad’s third career – after being in private practice in dentistry and then developing corporate dental programs – was as the lay leader, for 13 years, of the synagogue in Marco Island, Florida, that he helped create. Raskin Hall, in the foyer of the Marco Island Jewish Center, is named after my parents, Melvin and Elaine Raskin.

In honor of my father and Father’s Day, I am sharing my favorite story of his, which I wrote in my book, “Pathfinding,” along with many of his stories. Although I told this story in The Jewish Voice three years ago, I think it’s worth sharing again.  

I don’t know the origin of the story, but my father told me there was a similar story told by a rabbi. The story speaks to turning obstacles into opportunities and how, without the obstacle, the opportunity may never present itself.

Here is my dad’s story.

“One day the owner of a building tells his caretaker that he must go out of town for a day but that he expects a most important letter. He informs the caretaker that he must make sure he gets the registered letter himself because it is a very important letter. The owner leaves the next morning. That afternoon the letter is delivered, but requires a signature. The caretaker tells the postman that he doesn’t know how to write.

“The postman explains that he must obtain an actual signature, no marks or Xs. Since the caretaker can’t write, the postman refuses to leave the letter. When the owner returns and learns what happened, he becomes furious and fires the caretaker on the spot. The caretaker finds himself without a job and without an income. To support his meager existence, he starts peddling whatever goods and services he can to survive. His business begins to grow and improves to the point that he is able to open a little store.

“By the time his sons are old enough to help him, he has become well established. The sons inherit the business and when the caretaker retires, they decide to build a larger store. They ask their father, the former caretaker, to help them borrow the money to finance their ambitious undertaking. The father asks the banker for the loan and the banker says, ‘No problem. You can have whatever you need. Just sign on the dotted line.’

“The father looks at the banker and replies, ‘I can’t sign. I never learned how to write.’ In astonishment, the banker asks, ‘How is it possible that a man who can’t write could be as successful as you are?’

“ ‘Ah,’ says the father, ‘if I could write, I’d still be a caretaker.’ ”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thank you for a story that has rung true in my life.

PATRICIA RASKIN, president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., is an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.