I’m the firstborn of two firstborn children. Let that sink in for a bit. Firstborns, oldest children for the most part have a certain persona about them. There are experiments and expectations that mark the journey of life. Some of us maneuver our way through this role with little scars and no signs of wounds. Some of us rise to the occasion and live out roles of leadership and take charge. Some of us stumble along or have lots of valley and mountain moments as we embrace our life journey. I’m sure this can be said for any combination of birth order stats, but I speak from a firstborn of two firstborns experience. I’ve been thinking about this because it is Father’s Day and I’m mindful of characteristics I share with my Dad, lessons I have learned from him and struggles we have endured.
I would like to think that my Dad and I are very different in the way we operate and handle things. There are of course differences. I approach things differently then he does because of our generational gap, but my siblings would be the first to tell you that I am more like my dad than what I admit.
My dad is focused and likes to see projects done and wrapped up efficiently. If that means long days or sticking with it until it is complete over several days, that’s just what you do. I share in this gift of focus. If I am working on a project and it is stumbling along because things are not falling into place I continue on with it, sometimes to the point of my thinking not being clear. The goal is in mind and it must be achieved. This is a lesson learned from my dad.
My dad is determined, this characteristic in both of us can sometimes by mislabeled as stubborn, but I can assure you that being determined is a valued characteristic. His determination, along with my mother’s is what guided them to run a successful business for 42 years. Being determined means that one is strong, will hold up when others seem to falter and will look ahead with vision (sometimes blurry, but still looking ahead). This is a characteristic which continues to bear fruit in the adventure of my life.
My dad is generous. His generosity has at times been taken advantage of and at other times it has allowed others not to worry. Both him and mom instilled in me the importance of being generous. Generosity has many gifts which return in unexpected ways, never allowing us to look at ourselves in self-pity, rather it calls us to the openness of our heart. I am grateful for this gift/lesson/characteristic each day.
My dad is a man of faith and service. Over the course of my life time I have witnessed this man live out his faith by service to church, community and neighbour. I have witnessed him struggle with his faith, but not lose hope in our God. I have seen him serve because at his heart he knows that Jesus too laboured for the good of another. My faith is central to who I am. It is because of my parents that I met Christ in prayer, in church and in service to others. It was because of their encouragement and witness that my faith life has become my own experience, they set me free and I have encountered the amazing abundance of God’s graces. My dad’s faith and service has served as a testament to my vocation.
These characteristics, lessons learned and qualities outweigh the struggles we have endured. Everyone has struggles. How we grow from these struggles can speak to our character. Everyone is in some type of relationship with some one. At times they can be tricky and down right frustrating. This is no different for a father and son. How we grow from parent and child to parent and adult-child is never easy, but I speak from my role as an adult-child that it takes work and effort to maintain and build the relationship on this new level. It takes focus, determination, generosity, faith and service. Hmmm… these lessons I have seemed to have learned along the way from my Dad.
As we celebrate Father’s Day, I am mindful that not every child has a relationship with their dad, that some children do not know who their dad is and for some children the thought or idea of dad is hostile or heart-breaking. For these children we must offer our prayers, our witness and our authentic selves. This is the challenge that we men face in our world today. Fathers, and men of integrity must ask:
How will we be present and authentic for the children who do not know or struggle with the idea of father?
How will we move beyond our circles of comfort and be a witness of determination, generosity, faith and service?
How will we empower women and mothers and daughters, so that children and grandchildren will witness the strength and beauty of the women in their lives?
This is not an easy task in our world today. Our divided and hurting world needs witnesses of faith. Witnesses that embody the golden rule and the conviction of Jesus Christ being the standard of his Father’s love. Witnesses who with focus, determination, generosity, faith and service make known the goodness of our God and the goodness of fatherhood. Let us rise up as these witnesses breaking down walls of hatred, walls of lies and walls which leave children boxed in and fearful. Let us rise up for the good of humanity and the dignity of all. Let us rise up aware that each of us is a witness – some as fathers, some as mothers, some as siblings, some as spouses, some as religious, but all united to give witness to the very real love of God.
To my Dad, for the characteristics we share, for lessons learned, and the struggles we have overcome – thank you.
To all Dads, Grandfathers, Godfathers, Uncles, Men who are Like a Dad to Us – thank you and let us rise up to the challenge of being men of integrity, holiness and goodness. Our world is depending on us.
Happy Father’s Day!
St. Joseph – pray for us.