As Father’s Day rapidly approaches it stirs up many memories about my dad and all the lessons taught to me through his filter of education, life experiences and most importantly, his love for people. Quite often I find myself sitting alone in my counseling office following a session with another fellow who grieves what he so deeply desired in a father, but for whatever reason, was unable to get those needs met. I am left emotionally torn, feeling sorrow for the loss that others must endure often due to circumstances beyond their control, while I rekindle remembrances of the relationship experiences I had growing up with my own father.
While he was not a perfect father (he’d be the first to tell you that), the love demonstrated toward his family and others left great impressions on us all. So many wonderful life lessons flowed from this man that it can become overwhelming when the floodgates of my memory open wide. For me, the thing that stands out most about my father and the underlying message in everything he did was the importance he placed on loving and investing in others. Dad’s genes left a clear imprint on the development of my own philosophy of life as well as a foundation for the career path on which I find myself.
Throughout most of his lifetime dad served in a managerial capacity in whatever occupation he served. He was most often manager or owner of restaurants or hotels, a challenging job at best. There was always some kind of crisis looming on the horizon. Fires constantly needed to be put out. Regardless the circumstance, my father always put the needs of others above his own. He was consistently giving people the benefit of the doubt and finding the value in others no matter how hard he had to dig. To him it was always a worthwhile effort. When I sift through memories of my father I can’t help but think of one of my favorite scriptures from 1 Corinthians 10:24, Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. As succinctly as possible, this simple scripture defines my father to the core of his soul. For the most part, he was able to see through the damage, pain and gruff exteriors of some and extract that glimmer, that diamond that resides deep within us but in some cases are too frightened to show to others. He was never afraid to walk alongside those who needed a lift or a kind word, he was never put off by a person’s outward appearance.
On rare occasion it would come back to haunt him. Once, at his restaurant, a disheveled man approached him asking if there was any odd job he could do to make a little money. Always seeing the good in people, he offered the man an opportunity. He asked the stranger to touch-up paint the parking lot lines in front of the restaurant. The man agreed and with that my dad gave him twenty dollars to pick up some paint so that he could get started. I have little doubt that most of you reading this are shaking your head back and forth in anticipation of a disappointing outcome. On some level you would be right. The stranger took the money and never returned. I was young and thought it was foolish that my dad would be so naive to put himself in such a situation. I’ll never forget what he said to me, “Yeah, I lost twenty dollars but I gave that man an opportunity to do the right thing and feel the dignity that comes with doing right. If he never returns, I onlylost twenty dollars and did what I felt was right, the rest is on him.” That story stayed with me all these forty plus years, not because as a young know-it-all I momentarily felt superior to my father. No, it was because he was so seldom taken advantage of. I learned much about my father that day, more important, I learned much about his philosophy of life and the importance of selflessness. As I grew older, drew closer to God and started raising children of my own his lessons were practical examples of what Jesus demonstrates in the Word. We are called to love others and treat people the way that you would want to be treated.
On many occasions since his passing over twenty years ago I have come across someone who knew my dad and they’ll share reminiscences with me. I have yet to hear anyone utter a single negative remark about my dad. They all remember his kindness, his compassion and the love that he would show others. It is always remarkable to me and it serves as a check in my own spirit. If I received ten percent of these traits from my father, I am blessed beyond measure. On one particular occasion, shortly after my dad had passed, I went to his bank to finalize some things. The teller, who apparently knew him and knew he was ill, asked me how he was doing. I explained to her that he had died and I was here to handle some financial issues on my mother’s behalf. Her eyes welled up with tears, which caused my eyes to well up. She couldn’t even speak as she began to cry. This was a teller at his bank! I was shocked, but not surprised. My father was a man who made an impact on everyone that he came into contact with.
One day a year is not nearly enough to honor fathers. A father’s role in raising boys can’t be underestimated in spite of what our society may say. If you were hurt by your father don’t let that be a chain around your neck. Whether through drawing closer to God, counseling, finding a mentor or mending bridges with your own father, take a step forward. It’s never too late to learn what wasn’t instilled in you growing up. Our world needs healthy men to raise healthy men. We need you, just like I needed my dad.
I am overjoyed to say that some of those same genes have been passed through me to my two boys in abundant displays of compassion and caring for others. Thank you dad for showing me by example the importance of loving others and investing in God’s creation. Thanks also for leaving your mark on your son, grandchildren and this world!
Author of “Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted” is an author, pastor, counselor and speaker who resides in California with his wonderful wife and two beautiful children.