“Let us work for the good of all, especially for those of the family of faith.” Galatians 6:10
As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled. “The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track, “he replied, “will now have a pair he can use.”
Do you remember when you were little and you would go into the living room or wherever Dad took off his shoes, and put your small feet in his big shoes and tried to walk around in his shoes? You look down and see those huge shoes and think, ‘These are the biggest shoes in the world. How would I ever fill these shoes?” Over time, you grew into those shoes. In fact, you might even have grown past this shoe size.
Being a father is one of the greatest things in the world.
William Wordsworth once said this: “The best portion of a good man’s life are his little, nameless, unremembered act of kindness and of love.”
When I was a teenager, we lived in West Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University. My father, then Major Thomas (retired as a full Colonel), was the senior professor of Military History (and in charge of the parade cavalry). They were short one horse and I, being a trained rider from years before in Germany, got to go with him to pick one out.
And there he stood – a majesty of a horse. I pointed to him and Dad nodded. “You name him, Peggy, for he will be yours to care for.” I named him THOR. We spent hours and hours together- a great memory. But the greater memory and gift was my father including me in his personal and professional life.
On that same note, I would like to share a story with you that Dan Clark shares about his father. I’m sure his father thought, at the time, that his son would never remember this, but years later, long after his father passed away, Dan Clark wrote this story about something that he felt personified his dad.
“Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus. Finally, there was only one family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me. There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. You could tell they didn’t have a lot of money. Their clothes were not expensive, but they were clean.
The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, elephants, and other acts they would see that night. One could sense they had never been to the circus before. It promised to be a highlight of their young lives. The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, “You’re my knight in shining armor.” He was smiling and basking in pride.
The ticket collector asked the father how many tickets he wanted. He proudly responded, “Please let me buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets so I can take my family to the circus.” The ticket lady quoted the price. The man’s wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man’s lip began to quiver. The father leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you say?” The ticket lady again quoted the price.
How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus? Seeing what was going on, my dad put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill and dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father reached down, picked up the bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.”
The man knew what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking, embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied, “Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.”
My father and I went back to our car and drove home. We didn’t go to the circus that night, but we didn’t go without.”
His father could have gone to the circus that night. It would have been an ordinary night.
But he showed his son an extraordinary masculine love. There is nothing in the world so great as a mother or a father who shows love and shows examples of love to others. It’s the little things that children remember.
Psalm 103:13: As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; (NIV)
Fathers have a great responsibility to show their unique love to children. They do this in many ways. Note the experience described above with my dad. Children need to be supported in many ways not only financially, but also by giving love, hugs, and kisses. A great father also invests time by hugging, kissing and spending whatever time it takes with their children. There is no job more important than kids.
Fathers have so much to give. And they don’t want to contain it in an enclosed circle.
They are here to serve. There are a lot of little boys and girls in the world who need love. They need the special, unique love that only a father can give.
To do this, first the man has to be willing. This isn’t limited with age. He can be grandpa, even uncle, or he can be dad. It doesn’t matter at all what the age is because the ageless love of the Christ comes through.
I want to share a story with you about a little boy named Chase. This story was shared by Mark Victor Hanson and Jack Canfield. They tell a story about how a father figure can make a major difference in a life.
In today’s world, we are faced with so many families who are separated in this country. Many of these families do not have father figures. They need armies of fathers who are willing to take the place of someone who is not there.
This is one such story.
“There was a definite quiver in Chase’s lower lip as he followed his mother down the long, descending sidewalk to the parking lot at the orthodontist’s office. This was going to be the worst summer of any that the 11-year-old boy had known. The doctor had been kind and gentle with him, but the time had come for him to face the reality that he would be fitted with braces to correct a misalignment of his teeth. The correction would hurt, he couldn’t eat hard or chewy foods, and he thought he would be made fun of by his friends.
No words passed between the mother and son as they drove back to the small country home. It was only a few acres, but it was a sanctuary for one dog, two cats, a rabbit and a multitude of squirrels and birds.
The decision to have Chase’s teeth corrected had been a difficult one for his mother, Cindy. Having been divorced for five years, she was the sole provider for her young son. Little by little, she had saved up the $1,500 required to have the teeth corrected.
Then one sunny afternoon, the person she cared for the most, Chase, fell in love. Chase and his mother had gone to visit the Rakers, who were old family friends, at their farm about 50 miles away. Mr. Raker took them out to the barn and there she was. She held her head high as the trio approached. Her light mane and tail rippled on a gentle breeze. Her name was Lady, and she was everything a beautiful mare should be. She was saddled, and Chase had his first taste of horsemanship. There was an instant attraction, which seemed to be mutual.
“She is for sale, if you want to buy her,” Mr. Raker had told Cindy. “For $1,500 you get the mare, all the papers on her and the horse trailer to haul her.” For Cindy, it was a big decision. The $1,500 she had saved would fix Chase’s teeth or buy Lady for Chase, but it wouldn’t do both. Finally, she determined that getting the braces was the best long-term decision for Chase. It was a tearful decision for both mother and son. But Cindy promised to take Chase to the Raker farm to see Lady and ride her as often as they could.
Chase reluctantly began his long course of treatment. With little courage and a low tolerance for pain, Chase submitted himself for the impressions, fittings and never-ending tightening of the expanders. He gagged, cried, and pleaded, but the orthodontic correction went ahead. The only shining moments of Chase’s life that summer came when his mother took him to ride Lady.
There, he was free. Horse and rider would go galloping into the big pasture and into a world that knew no pain or suffering. There was only the steady rhythm of the horse’s hooves on the sod and the wind in his face. Riding Lady, Chase could be John Wayne, “Tall in the saddle,” or one of the knights of old, off to rescue the fair maiden in distress, or anything his imagination let him be. At the end of his long rides, Chase and Mr. Raker would rub down Lady, clean her stall and feed her, and Chase would always give his new friend lumps of sugar. Cindy and Mrs. Raker spent their afternoons together making cookies and lemonade, and watching Chase ride his new best friend.
The good-byes between Chase and the mare lasted as long as Cindy would permit. Chase would hold the horse’s head in his hand, and then rub her strong shoulders and comb his fingers through her mane. The gentle animal seemed to understand the affection given to her and would stand patiently, now and then nipping at his shirt sleeve. Each time they left the Raker farm, Chase feared that this might be his last look at the mare. Lady was, after all, for sale, and the market was good for that quality of riding stock.
The summer wore on with repeated tightening of the expander in Chase’s mouth. All of the discomfort would be worth it because this would make room for his yet undescended teeth to come in, he was told. Still, there was the agony of food particles trapped by the appliance, and that ever-constant pain of his facial bones stretching. All of the $1,500 would soon be used up on his dental work, and nothing would remain with which to purchase the mare he loved so much. Chase asked his mom countless questions, hoping for an answer that would eventually satisfy him. Could they borrow the money to buy the mare? Would grandpa help them buy her?
Could he get a job and save his money to buy the horse? His mother fielded the questions as best she could. When all else failed, she would quietly slip away to shed her own tears, that she could not provide for all the wants of her only child.
A crisp September morning brought the opening of school, which also brought the big yellow school bus to the end of the lane at Chase’s home. The school-children took turns recounting the things they did during summer vacation. When his turn came, Chase talked about other subjects, but he never mentioned the golden-colored mare named Lady. The last chapter in that story had not yet been written, and he was afraid of how it would end. The battle with the stretching appliance in his mouth had been won, and the less obtrusive retainer had taken its place.
With eager anticipation, Chase looked forward to the third Saturday, when his mother had promised to take him to the Rakers’ to ride Lady. Chase was up early on the appointed day. He fed his rabbits, dogs and cats, and even found time to rake leaves in the back yard.
Before Chase and his mother left the house, he filled his jacket pocket with sugar cubes for the golden-maned mare that he knew would be waiting for him. To Chase, it seemed an eternity before his mother turned the car off the main road and down the lane to the Raker farm. Anxiously, Chase strained his eyes for a glimpse of the mare that he loved so much. As they drew closer to the farmhouse and barns, he looked, but Lady was nowhere to be seen. Chase’s pulse pounded as he looked expectantly for the horse trailer. It was not there. Both the trailer and horse were gone.
His worst nightmare had become a reality. Someone had surely bought the horse, and he would never see her again.
Chase began to feel an emptiness in the pit of his stomach that he had never known before. They got out of the car and ran up to the front door of the house. No one answered the doorbell.
Only the big collie, Daisy, was there with tail wagging to greet them. While his mother sadly looked on, Chase ran to the barn where the mare had been kept. Her stall was empty, and the saddle and blanket were also gone. With tears streaming down his cheeks, Chase returned to the car and got in. “I didn’t even get to say good-bye, Mom,” he whimpered.
On the drive back home, both Cindy and Chase sat quietly with their own thoughts. The wound of losing his friend would be slow to heal, and Chase only hoped that the mare would find a good home with someone to love and take care of her. She would be in his prayers, and he would never forget their carefree times together. Chase’s head was bowed and his eyes closed as Cindy pulled into the driveway of the home. He did not see the red, shiny horse trailer by their barn, or Mr. Raker standing beside his blue pick-up truck.
When Chase finally looked up, their car had stopped and Mr. Raker was opening Chase’s door. “How much money have you saved up, Chase?” he asked.
This could not be real. Chase rubbed his eyes in disbelief. “Seventeen dollars,” he answered in a halting voice.
“That’s just what I wanted for this mare and trailer,” said a smiling Mr. Raker. The transaction that followed would have rivaled any on record for speed and brevity. In only moments, the new, proud owner was climbing in the saddle, astride his beloved mare. Horse and rider were soon out of sight around the barn, headed for the open pasture beyond.
Mr. Raker never explained his actions, other than to say, “This is the best I have felt in years.”
Let us pray:
Dear God, there are many fathers here. Empower all of us – men and women – with the actions of the Christ. Empower us with patience and love. Help us to give love to our own children – to go way beyond human love, and to consent to Your love coming through us so our actions will be remembered. Help us to do many small acts of kindness so we can prepare for the big acts of kindness when the opportunity arises. We pray that we can be a blessing to every child who crosses our path, and we can be an example of fatherhood and motherhood.
In Jesus Christ’s name, we now accept this blessing of the Christ in and through our minds, our bodies, and our souls . . .Amen.