When Father’s Day rolls around, for me it’s often accompanied by the fact that I’m not sure how to properly honor my Dad. I’m lucky enough to still have him around, but he’s never been one for gifts of gratitude for his fatherly-ness, and despite having been the bedrock foundation for most things I’m proud of in myself, he remains pretty low-key about the whole thing. But I think that some public recognition is in order.
I have a number of stories about my Dad – these things that sort of pass into legend in the eyes of offspring, that while they don’t grow bigger (as in size-of-the-fish-I-caught bigger), their importance becomes more apparent as one grows in life and begins to encounter adulthood in its myriad of forms. If you’ll permit me, I’d like to share one such story.
When I was younger (I’ll say 9 or 10 with the caveat that I’m really bad at memory-based timeframes), one morning I idly looked out the kitchen window of our front door, as I did a lot of mornings. Except, this morning wouldn’t be like other mornings.
Because there was an old lady wandering around our carport.
This, as you can imagine, piqued my interest. I went to get my dad to let him know about our strange guest, and he went to investigate the situation. At that point, the woman was walking into our carport shed and murmuring with thick eastern European accent “Apartments, there are no apartments here.”
After attempting to talk to the woman, my dad came back in and told us to hang out for a bit. As it turns out, the lady didn’t speak much English at all and seemed lost, possibly in the early stages of dementia (she was very old). He drove off with the old lady in our car.
My Dad was gone for a long time, what seemed like (and actually may have been) hours, which I remember being a little nervous about. When he finally got back home, he explained what had taken him so long. The woman didn’t know where she lived, and so my Dad had attempted to talk to her about it while driving her all over town to various apartment complexes. Eventually, they got lucky and she recognized the place where she lived, and he was able to come back home.
As a kid, this was confusing to me. I wondered why he hadn’t just dropped her off at a police station, or given up, or taken her to a public landmark or something.
Dad’s answer to this was as simple as it was profound to me: “Because when you can help someone, you should.”
Fast-forward a dozen or so years, and I realize that this is a basic tenant of existence that I’ve always tried to live up to, and it’s done a lot for me in life (and hopefully, something for others as well.) Whenever Dad tells me how proud he is of me for helping someone or doing something good (he has an awesome amount of pride in my brother and I), I tend to think about times like this, when he lived his expectations of us as men and showed us the path to walk by walking it. There is no stronger lesson than that.
But the question remained: what could I get my Dad for his day? How does one begin to honor everything that’s wrapped up in the word “Dad”? After reflecting on this story, I had an idea.
For Father’s Day, I’ve made a donation in honor of my Dad to Charity:Water (charitywater.org). Charity:Water is one of the best, most effective and transparent charities I’ve ever seen, with a goal of drilling wells to bring water to towns that have none, improving the lives and health of communities around the world. This is one of the most basic human needs.
People are thirsty, and they need our help. So I’m doing what Dad has taught me to do.
My donation will help 5 people obtain clean drinking water. If you’d like to participate in honor of my Dad, your Dad, or an overall great cause, you can join in here: http://mycharitywater.org/a-lesson-from-my-father
Dad, thank you for this lesson and all the others so far. I’m proud to be your son. Happy Father’s Day!