by Joanie Butman
With Father’s Day approaching, I suppose it wasn’t surprising that there would be a plethora of Dad items on display everywhere, though I didn’t expect to see a Hallmark greeting in the garden supply store. While purchasing soil this week, I noticed a display of engraved rocks. One of them struck a chord. It read,
“My father didn’t tell me how to live;
he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
I chuckled thinking God was the first to figure that out. He tried for centuries to tell us how to live, which didn’t work any better than when we try it, so He sent Jesus to show us. Good thing His life was recorded so He could continue to be an example to us today, tomorrow and into eternity.
In any event, this sentiment is exactly why we are encouraging people to share their stories. These stories don’t tell others how to live or what to choose, they simply illustrate how they did. Dads (or uncles or grandfathers) won’t always be here for us to observe, which is why leaving their stories behind is so important. How we live our lives is our legacy, but it’s lost to those who aren’t there to witness it. That’s why people love to read biographies, particularly autobiographies – to understand those that went before them, especially those that accomplished great things. Well, we can’t all accomplish great things in the worldly sense, but I maintain that moments of greatness occur every day in the most ordinary of lives in the quietest of ways.
When I asked my Dad for permission to publish last week’s blog, he hesitated. I know for a fact if it was about one of his crazy capers like getting his shorts caught in the conveyor belt at the grocery store or reporting his car stolen because my mom had moved it into the garage, he wouldn’t have thought twice. However, I think it was precisely because it was of a more personal nature that he paused. It brought to mind something my nephew’s wife said when I started this project. She commented, “It’s interesting. I can tell you all the funny stories of Papa’s antics, but I don’t know the important ones.” People want to know the important ones: the struggles, the doubts, the convictions, the failures, the victories and everything in between. The funny stories are entertaining but at some point get old, while the meaningful ones endure for generations. They define you. They introduce you to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in ways you may never have the opportunity to. When my nephew learned he and his wife were expecting (the first great grandchild), he began taping interviews with my parents so that his child would have the chance to know their voices and hear their stories from them.
Today of all days, the decree to honor thy father and mother is at the forefront of many people’s minds. It is a universal commandment regardless of your religious background. But how does one do that? Not with a new golf club on Father’s Day, though it certainly doesn’t hurt. The best way I know of is to live out the values they taught us. To live life in a way that reflects the best of themselves back to them.
I know we will be sharing many Papa stories today, but I encourage dads, uncles and grandfathers to choose to share something no one knows, a tale that will give your family a glimpse into your soul, a snapshot no camera has ever captured. It will be your Father’s Day gift to them, one that lasts long after the wrapping has been discarded and the golf club retired. And for the rest of us, I encourage you to choose to make time to listen to their stories. It will be a gift to you both.
The following is a poem written last year for Father’s Day. I share it for all the men I’ve been honored to know and love. Thank you for being such wonderful role models for my son and the next generation of men.