Friday, May 24, 2013
Today is my dad's birthday. I love him, and I am so grateful that he's my dad.
A few years ago, I called my dad to talk to him about a woman in our church congregation who had an extremely difficult life. When she and I talked about her struggles, my heart broke because I just wanted to make it all better for her, but I knew that I couldn't--the difficulties she was facing were too complex. When I mentioned that to my dad and told him I was discouraged by my inability to help her, he gave me some great advice that I've never forgotten: He told me that there is always something we can do for others, even if we can't do everything. He told me to think about my skills, resources, and abilities and just find something I could do to make her life a little bit better or a little happier.
This is how my dad has lived his life. For years, I've watched him quietly serve others and go out of his way to make their lives a little bit better, giving of his professional expertise, his time, his resources, his love and attention--whatever that person needed that matched what he was able to give. I've always admired my dad for the quiet strength, kindness, and commitment that are so evident in the way he loves and serves others.
When I was a kid, I remember people from church stopping by and going into my dad's office to get legal counsel. Though I didn't know the particulars of their situations, I knew that these people had difficult lives and were so thankful for my dad's assistance and concern. I remember feeling grateful that my dad was able to help them, even if it was just in small ways.
When we first moved into our neighborhood in 1992, my dad was asked to be a Sunday School teacher for the 10-year-old boys at our church, and he loved those wild boys so much that, 21 years later, he is still in touch with many of them. He writes them cards on their birthdays, and I know he has been a mentor to them throughout their young adulthood and now their adulthood. One young man from his class has a mental disability, and to this day, my dad is one of his best friends and takes him to dinner every few months. My dad has shown me what it means to invest in relationships and do little things over the course of many years that add up to make a big difference.
When I was away at college, I loved coming home for a holiday break and looking through the notes on my dad's desk. He had a tray on the corner of his desk where he would put cards and letters from friends and family, and I was always astonished by the evidences I would find of the little things my dad was doing for people. "Thank you for bringing over chicken tortilla soup when I was sick." "Thank you for remembering my birthday and taking me to dinner." "Thank you for spending all day on Saturday helping our family move." Sometimes there were notes from young people whom my dad was sponsoring so they could participate in extra curricular activities or semesters abroad or church missions--usually, those notes were addressed to "my sponsor" because he didn't want recognition for the help he was giving. I never told my dad that I peeked at the notes in his tray, so he never knew that I was aware of the quiet kindnesses he was extending to the people in his sphere of influence. Reading those notes impacted me deeply and made me admire my father all the more.
My dad has been a widower for almost ten years, but that has not stopped him from serving and reaching out. Service was very important to my mom as well, and I love that my dad carries on many of the good things that she did for others. I feel like it's a way that he honors and remembers her, and I know she is proud of him. I am proud of him too. He and my mother are my greatest heroes.
My dad once told me that sometimes he looks in the mirror and thinks, "You've gotta be kidding me!" because he feels so blessed. He says he doesn't even know how it's possible for one man to be so richly blessed. That's how I feel when I think about my parents: "You've gotta be kidding me." How did I get so lucky to have them? They will never know the profound blessing it has been to be their daughter.
Happy birthday, Dad. I am grateful beyond words for you--for your love, your wisdom, and your amazing example to me and so many others.