Who can deny the powerful influence of a father? Years ago, a creative anti-smoking public service announcement aired on television. The spot had no words. It didn’t need any. The viewer watched as a small child followed his father. The young boy imitated everything that he saw his father do. In the final scene, the father skips a stone on the lake and his son throws a stone, too. The father sits down on a grassy spot under a tree and his son does, too. The father reaches for a cigarette and the commercial ends. No words — none needed.
The late Harry Chapin recorded a song written by his wife. It was her way of telling her husband he needed to slow down and make time for his family. “Cats in the Cradle” instructs us even an example of absence and neglect may be picked up by admiring eyes. It should not have surprised the father in “Cats” his son turned out to be just like him. The boy had been saying all along, “I’m gonna be like him.”
Thank God for good fathers who understand their important role. Dr. Martin Luther King had such a father. Daddy King, as he was sometimes called by family and friends, took his young son to a shoe store. The sales clerk told them to go to the back door of the store, because they didn’t serve blacks in the showroom up front. Instead, Daddy King took his young son out of the store and left, refusing to give that business his business. Years later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recalled the incident, “That experience revealed to me at a very early age that my father had not adjusted to the system, and he played a great part in shaping my conscience.”
Even the little things fathers do can make a big impact in the lives of their children. The late great literary genius, Erma Bombeck, shared a story with her readers about how the death of her father impacted her.
Erma said when she was small she would play with dolls. The mother doll always had a lot to do. She didn’t quite know what to do with the daddy doll. Daddies it seemed were like the light in the refrigerator — nobody really knew what they did after the door was shut. So, Erma would have her daddy doll say, “I’m going to work now” and she would throw him under the bed.
One day Erma’s father became ill and went to the hospital. He died the next day. For days people stopped by her home. She recalled she had never seen so many guests and so much food. She excused herself and went up to her room. She reached under the bed for her daddy doll. She held that doll and cried. Since he never seemed to do anything, how could his leaving hurt so much?
Erma came to appreciate the important role of her father in her own life and expressed her love and admiration in her moving articles.
I thank God for my father, who’s still living and still setting a good example. His has been an example of strength and love. He has demonstrated a devotion to hard work and to his family. He continues to be a great husband to my mother after 65 years of marriage. He has always been a great dad. As he approaches his 85th birthday, he still puts God first in his life. In many respects, I still want to be like him and like my Heavenly Father who has shaped my Dad’s life.
Fathers, remember your children watch and imitate you. They would be like you. Knowing this, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you.”
And have a Happy Father’s Day!
Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.