Father’s Day and My Father

Sonora Smart Dodd and her five siblings were raised by their father, a Civil War veteran, after their mother died giving birth. Ms. Dodd is the one credited for beginning the tradition of honoring fathers and first had the idea in 1909 after listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day. After gaining the support of religious leaders the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, the birth month of Dodd’s father. In 1972 it was decreed by law that the day would be celebrated on the third Sunday in June.

Originally Father’s Day was a largely religious holiday, taking note of the Heavenly Father and men who reflect His love and character to their children in this world. In the relatively brief period of time since the tradition of Father’s Day began, however, it has been another over-commercialized holiday represented by sending Hallmark cards and trinkets. Many Catholics continue to observe the feast day of Saint Joseph, on March 19, as an acknowledgement of the role of fathers.

I’m not opposed to gifts or cards, but when there is a manipulation that makes people feel like they have to buy into the idea, I am greatly opposed. My own dad taught me so many things and one of the greatest was to not waste your money for a commercial holiday. Since my dad doesn’t send cards himself, it runs in the family and it’s taken a great deal of pressure off the table–nice. Simply because we don’t buy into the commercialized holiday celebrations in my family, it doesn’t mean we don’t think on those things that are special and unique about those we love. On this day, I reflect on my Heavenly Father and what He has always and continues to provide for me. Words cannot express what my Heavenly Father has taught me about being a woman of Truth and character; and likewise, my dad raised me with the intention of instilling deeply set values and beliefs that as I age, I become all the more aware that parent’s are to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). My parent’s did this and we have not departed from the things we were taught.

1) My dad taught me that as long as we are alive and breathing, our hands should be working, and whether he was always aware or not, the way he taught his children was very much in line with the Bible and what our Heavenly Father says as well. Proverbs 19 says that “slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger…Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. Discipline your son, for there is hope…Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future…Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.”

WORK AND CHARACTER: My dad began working when he was 7-years-old, throwing newspapers to help make ends meet in his family. His parents had a 3rd grade education and were laborers who worked hard in the fields and had to sell all the land they owned in order to pay medical bills for one of their children who nearly died. What my grandparents instilled in my dad, though, was that it’s not an option to sit back and expect a free ride from others and it’s never okay to piggy back on someone else’s success. Your life is yours alone and it’s up to you to get the most out of it. My dad worked from the time he was 7 all the way through Vietnam and medical school. He is now in his late 60’s and still works full nine-hour days on his feet going non-stop. He doesn’t have any plans for retirement (even though he could do so financially and has certainly worked harder and longer than anyone I know), and you would never guess his age because of his vitality and the way he lives life. Retirement is something else we do not see in the Bible, and when I look at my dad I see the essence of what it means to work until you can work no longer and only take a day of rest when the week of work is done. The day may come when he’s no longer able to function in the same capacity, but I know without a doubt that as long as he is breathing, he will be working and he will be using his hands, and his time, in ways that make a difference to this world.

The fact that my dad came from nothing and worked his way to where he is now is something you don’t see in many people today. I am so grateful to have been raised in a home where my mother and father both worked hard and taught their children that they have a responsibility to do the same. Nothing that is right comes easy—you have to work for what you have and not ever take from others. You have to have enough character and self-respect to not waste time. Anyone can flip a burger and flipping a burger is better than ever expecting another to take care of you financially…that is the cheap way out and shows no character. My dad never complained about how he grew up and what he didn’t have. He taught us to never wallow in self pity—there is always someone worse off than you. What he did talk about, though, was a wealthy woman he knew from church who taught him to play piano and appreciate the arts. Because of her, he grew up playing piano in church and there was always a piano in our home. My dad would play it with me and those were sweet sounds that I can still hear in my heart. Although his family didn’t have money, he still learned and respected the finer things in life and the importance of culture. And, he taught his children to do the same. Your circumstances don’t define you—it’s what you do with your circumstances that will impact your legacy and everyone has hands that can work and a heart that can give. Oh…he became a physician because of his parent’s not being able to afford healthcare and so he could take care of others who had nothing.

2) HONOR YOUR COUNTRY: Both of my grandfathers, my great uncle, my uncle and my father all served our country. From WWII and Korea to Vietnam, there is a long line of men who served this country in very real and scary circumstances. My dad never talked much about Vietnam and that’s because of what he experienced. What I do know of his time is what others have told me. Because of my dad and the other men in my family tree, I was raised with a deep level of respect for those who have given their lives and time to serving in our military. War leaves a wake of destruction even after troops come home and the battle that was fought on the frontlines often becomes one fought within and in silence, where the family experiences the unending effects. I’m so thankful for all the men in my family who truly embodied what it meant to be a man and literally put their lives on the line for others. I will never forget my dad singing “The Ballad of the Green Beret” with me and teaching me to always hold our flag in high regard and know that freedom isn’t free.

3) CHANGING ROLES: My dad gave his children invaluable wisdom and taught us that a parent’s role changes over time and it wasn’t his job to take care of us forever. He taught us this lesson long before I heard it in church (and I’ve heard it many times in the years since). He told us our job was to make good grades and get into college. This was not an option in our home. If we came home with a B on our report cards (and I had a few), we were pushed to do better and told our job was to make excellent grades. Ignorance only reflected someone had not used their brain, which we all have and are to expand. He gave us the push to be the best we could and to understand that even though we were children, we had responsibilities. The beds were to be made in the morning because it was a lazy person who did not make their bed. He taught us that if we wanted to have a place to live at 18, then it would be because we were in college and not under his roof, because we were now adults and at this time a parent’s role is no longer that of a manager, but of an advisor when advice was sought. He taught us that all he had was his and on loan to us; ours would come from our own efforts. Things like this have led to a great appreciation that life means work and work means having pride in who you are and what you are doing with your time.

4) GOD AND CHURCH ALWAYS: There is not a time I can remember missing church on a Sunday morning. We were always at the 8am service and in the front pew. I credit my dad (and mom) for the fact that even though most kids who go to college stop going to church, my brother and I never did. Their observance and dedication to being in service week in and week out is something I hold more dear than anything else. My parents were always told they had “the most well behaved children”—Discipline is key in raising a child who is respectful and capable and my parents put in place yet another Biblical principle “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined…then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).

5) HEALTH AND WELLNESS: Prevention is key and most illnesses are caused because people fail to take care of themselves to begin with. My dad was/is a well respected and highly regarded physician where I come from. He always said that if people would eat well and exercise they would usually not have a need for a doctor. He said you can tell a lot about someone’s mindset by how they choose to care for their body and it impacts everything from healthy teeth, to healthy weight, to the heart and their mental acumen. My dad is a D.O. and because of him, I am very much of the holistic and preventative mindset. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

6) ALWAYS READ: My dad taught us to keep our minds sharp and pay attention to what is going on in the world outside of your own front door. You should always have a book in your hand and never stop reading and learning. Don’t plant yourself in front of a piece of television, but learn and acquire as much information as you can from books. Because of my dad, I’ve been an avid reader from before I can recall and books remain one of my favorite things. When I was little I would sit in our library at home and read for hours—everything from the Encyclopedia to my parent’s medical journals. Books led me to a love for knowledge, for writing and for always seeking out the truth. He said there were two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle was the truth…be smart who you listen to and what you believe.

7) DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS: My dad said mediocrity was not an option and anyone can excel if they put the necessary work in. Children need to be exposed to different activities to develop specific life skills. My brother and I were in many things from a young age. We played soccer, basketball, softball, tennis and while I didn’t care for it, my brother flourished at golf. I took dance—jazz, tap, ballet and even twirling. Beyond sports my parents exposed us to music and completely supported the developments of my gifts. We were in piano lessons and then of course came my classical voice training and eventually violin and flute, as well. My dad worked so hard and he made certain his kids had every tool they needed to be well rounded and absolutely focused on the future. He wanted his children to grow into capable and educated adults. Children will become teens and then adults and how well equipped of an adult they are is often a reflection on the skills they developed in childhood. My dad did not enable or enmesh us in order to stifle our growth. Rather, he gave us roots to grow high and be planted firmly so we could stand on our own.

This may sound like a total love fest or that my dad is the greatest parent in the world, but the truth is, while I love my dad dearly and am so grateful for how I was raised, we are not the type that speak regularly or are up in each others business. What I have now are memories of a man who is genuinely the most brilliant and funny man I’ve ever known–seriously. I wish I saw him more, I wish I spoke to him more and I wish we were closer. But, he did such an outstanding job when his role was that of being parent to children and teens that my younger brother and I (and my older siblings) are all fully functioning and contributing members of society. Out of five children he reared, no one went to jail, did drugs, got pregnant out of wedlock, lived on and acquired credit card debt, took welfare, or thought it was okay to do these things. So, on this Father’s Day, albeit late in the day, I wanted to share with you those specific things that make my dad special to me and that I am so grateful for. I can’t imagine having had any other dad…I can only wish I’d have paid more attention to some of the things he taught me before it was too late and I learned certain lessons the hard way. So, in closing, here are a few more key points from my dad, and I’m sure many of yours…

You are the company you keep.

You pay for what you get.

Give to God first.

Never steal–and if you see someone doing it, don’t turn the other cheek–an innocent person is the one being hurt.

Appreciate the Arts and culture.

A man should always hold the door open for a woman.

A man should always walk on the street side.

Pick ’em up and put ’em down (i.e. get moving and don’t walk at a snail’s pace!)

A woman should always carry cash on her in case she is with someone she has to get away from and needs a cab.

A man should never lose his temper.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

People should have to take a test before they vote.

Ignorance is optional but for you it should not be an option.

Money doesn’t buy class.

Always count your blessings.

Serve others and expect nothing in return.

There is right and there is wrong–there is no in between.

There’s a difference between trash and class.

Don’t sleep in–you’re losing precious time.

Enjoy life and the great outdoors.

And in closing…”our family puts the fun in dysfunctional” 🙂

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