Today, September 21st, marks half a century of life for my dad. It seems an appropriate time for me to provide a toast, an ode, a speech acknowledging the greatness of this man.
It’s sad that it takes most of us growing up and moving out of the house before we realize just how significant our parent’s have been in our lives. For me, working daily with a lot of youth who have not had a father in their lives, I’m continually in awe of how blessed I am to have had a father in my life.
I’ll start by saying my dad was not perfect. It was the imperfection that I would focus on at times growing up and is usually the ammo for worthless childhood arguments that have no real impact on except later regret at how mean I was to my parent’s at times.
I look back now and I see how beneficial and important it was for me to see my dad’s imperfections. It taught me that it’s okay to not have it all together, that even grown-ups are learning and growing, and even grown-ups need to say their sorry sometimes. It’s taught me that being real and honest with one another is much more important then having a surfacy, fake, polite relationship. I know the lesson that it is okay to make mistakes is something a lot of people never learned, and they daily confront overwhelming stress because of it.
I remember two classes in high school that I almost failed, Freshman year Spanish and Junior year Economics. Junior year was a tough year for me and I was really upset about how hard Economics was and how I was barely passing. My dad simply came by my side and encouraged me that it was okay if I failed the class, that if I gave it my best effort that was what was important. I never felt my school work was about grades, it was about whether I was trying and learning, and it was okay if I made mistakes, at least I tried.
My dad taught me the importance of standing on your own two feet and paving a way for yourself. When I was in high school he ran a temporary employment service. Because of that connection I did a ton of odd jobs for pretty good pay, sweeping at construction sites, bundling newspapers, flipping carpets, supervising a bouncy castle, and many more. I think it was the summer before my junior year of high school, my dad told me I need to go out on my own and get a job myself. We got into a big argument about it, I couldn’t see the point, and honestly I was deathly afraid of venturing out on my own. After a few more yelling matches and tears I finally gave in, dressed up, typed up a resume and stepped out. I walked out of my house and down the street, completely on my own and I got my first real job. I didn’t realize it then, but that was an extremely powerful experience for me. It took my dad pushing me out of the nest before I ever learned I could fly.
If I could pin point it, I would say the beginning of my spiritual growth was at Promise Keepers 1996 in Chicago. I had just finished 8th grade and I went with my dad, and another father and son, friends of ours. Before that I’d never thought of church or Christianity as anything more then an event we attended on Sunday. I can’t remember any of the speakers or anything, but I remember the event, because it was the first time I’d ever heard the things I did. Here I was with my Dad learning and intentional pursuing how to follow after God. The speakers talked about Loving your spouse, loving your kids, pursuing reconcialition with one another, being humble and serving, and here was my Dad spending his time, energy and money to do this and to bring me along as well! There was a lesson on intentionality that I will never forget. I realized that day that if I wanted to grow and change and become a better person, that it was something I had to work at. Books, sermons, a Bible, they all took on a whole new meaning to me. If I wanted to do anything in life I could (my mom taught me that one), but it would take work. Loving your parents, loving your spouse, your kids, your neighbor, God, it wasn’t just something that happened, it was something you worked at. And now I’m learning how to love my dad, the way he’s been learning how to love me for 24 years.
My dad has always been there for me. He’s taught me that family and relationships are more important then jobs, money, possessions. My dad has changed jobs a bit, and I know that many times it has been because his family is more important then any pursuit of success. My dad helped coach my soccer team when I was in elementary school (he still has the 15 year old sweatshirt to prove it), he came to my high school soccer games at 3 in the afternoon and my track meets even when I was continually dead last in the hurdles. My dad’s work schedule never got in the way of being with the family. He was there when I had knee surgery on a Wednesday morning and hanging out or picking us up when we got out early on a week day.
I could go on and on, but I realize this is getting longer then I anticipated. It would take me 50 years to write about all the ways my dad has influenced my life.
I love my dad. I know how blessed I am, because a lot of people have not had a father like mine, it is something I won’t take for granted.
Thank you Dad, I love you, and Happy Birthday.