For a while in middle school, I was friendly with a boy whose father attended school events as frequently as mine did; which is to say—never! Ours was a natural alliance between two outsiders who turned to one another for company while other boys dallied with their dads. His father was a doctor while mine was a rabbi. His weary response to everyone asking about his father was, “With patients.” Mine was, “With congregants.”
I remember wondering why lawyers, stockbrokers, and plumbers were always there at games with their sons. How come they weren’t with clients and customers? What was it about rabbis and doctors? Not until later did I realize that some jobs really are more like ministries and missions. Under normal circumstances, bookkeepers, car dealers, and social workers are home with their families for dinner. For certain medical specialties and for clergymen, normal circumstances are helping a person in need rather than heading home because the clock says dinnertime.
Naturally, there is a price to be paid. Nothing is for nothing, so it sometimes does happen that the children of parents who are super-dedicated to their work suffer. It goes without saying that there are compensating benefits. I did learn what commitment to one’s obligations means and understood the idea of having a life purpose. I respected my father immensely.