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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father: The Greatest Kind of Leadership

Before you read anything past this sentence, please watch this video.  Please.  I'm serious.  If you are still reading, stop and watch the video.  It's not very long.

In the movie Cheaper By The Dozen 2, towards the end, they say something like "There's no perfect way to be a [father], but there's a lot of ways to be a really good one."  For us mortals, this is true.  We don't have the slightest clue of what it means to be a perfect father like our God is to us, but my dad knows a way to be a really good one.

Part of the role of a father, as designed by God, is to provide and put his wife and his family before himself.  There are millions of families, I'm sure, where the home is broken and where relationships are severed by selfishness in the home.  While it doesn't require a perfect father to establish good relationships in families, it does require a man focused on self improvement and doing his to provide the best love and support he knows how to give to his wife and children.  It requires a high level of dedication, selflessness, a deep sense of gratitude and joy in seeing others, especially those in his family, succeed.  It also requires letting some of his expectations be unmet or even changed from time to time when something doesn't go according to planned, allowing people to make mistakes and always doing his best to encourage his family to make Christ centered  decisions and respond with love if they mess up.  It requires righteous, humble use of priesthood power to bless his family and most importantly, charity, the pure love of Christ.

Here is how my dad meets this standard.

My dad works with some pretty good people and deals with some pretty nasty people as well.  Working in the medical field, from what I have observed, is no walk in the park.  You can't please everyone, but yet everyone expects to be pleased when they seek health care.  It's obviously not abnormal to seek high quality health care, but it is also no mystery to me that his response to his pager going off before he called in, from what I observed, was never one of excitement.  His drive to love us and the Lord and provide the best he possibly could for us, I'm sure, was the only reason, some days and nights, why he kept going.  I remember a number of times where I wouldn't see him come home at night because he came home so late, making sure that his patients were all looked after properly so that we could have the best lives possible.  Growing up, I never saw a greater example, up close and personal, of consistent dedication to our well being in a man than my dad.  So on that one he passes with flying colors.
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On one of my previous entries I said that as much as we focus on doing good, being kind and seeking humbly to be a force for good, the more opportunities we will have to do good and the more positive attention and gratitude we will receive from and feel for others.  Watching my dad in his efforts to serve my mom, give us the absolute best he circumstances he could provide and encourage us to make proper use of and respond properly to those circumstances, I do not recall a single thing in his demeanor, words or actions that sent a message of "I'm doing this because I want to look like a hero" or "You'd better be grateful to me because of all this stuff I've provided for you." Rather, I remember feeling like what he really wanted was just to do good for the sake of doing good, serve for the sake of improving our lives and offering advice for the sake of helping us cope with hard times and become better people.  I recall my mom telling me that, while she was grateful for the many hours he put into landscaping the yard in their current home, she did suggest a number of times for him to get some professional landscapers to finish the job and give himself a break.  He was so adamant about doing everything he could to give her what he wanted himself and it took a few times before he agreed to give himself that break and let someone else finish.  He was that focused on serving ALL THE TIME growing up.  For selflessness, he nailed it.
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Whether it was a graduation, a great result of a science fair project (with which he always helped), earning a merit badge, or even just overcoming a great personal difficulty, if I were to pick a phrase my dad loved to use during times like that it was a plain and simple but yet emphatic "Well done, [insert personal pronoun here]!"  He was always the first to offer our hard work ethic and abilities to help others - even when we didn't want him to, haha - because he had confidence in our ability to do good.  He also expressed abundant gratitude and gave loads of praise to my mom for her efforts in instilling in us a good sense of what it really means to put in a good hard days work and be legitimately impressed with the results.

I remember when he took away driving privileges when I came home with a poor mark on my report card to teach me the value of studying hard.  It was found that the poor grade was because of an error on the teachers part and driving privileges were immediately reinstated upon this discovery.  He was always very careful to give out both punishments and rewards in ways that taught us a valuable lesson, expressed exuberant satisfaction with our efforts for good and always encouraged us to aim for the next step in the learning process.  Did he find pure, selfless joy and gratitude in our efforts and successes?  Absolutely!
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There was one time when he drove me out to pick up some large stone slabs for some kind of outdoor job - I don't remember exactly what - and after we had loaded a bunch of them on the truck he couldn't get back up the dirt hill to bring it home.  After several attempts, he suggested we pray for help so we could get back home on the next try, but to no avail.  I remember him being so set on bringing them home to make the project look better and he concluded after failing that one last attempt, that we would just have to empty out the truck if we wanted to get home.  We may have put a few back in the truck a taken a more flat route back to the road, but I do remember him changing his expectation and humbly submitting to the Lord's answer, "I'm sorry, but this just isn't going to work, you'll have to try something different" (something to that effect).  My dad didn't get upset, but, if I remember right, just said something like "well, darn, I guess we'll just have to change our plan here" and we went home with a different outcome than we expected.

This is just one example of many but it is also one of many evidences of his submission to the Lord's will when the Lord basically told him "This just isn't going to work the way you want it to" or "This person isn't going to respond well to this so you'll have to change your approach if you want a positive outcome."  Regardless of how much time it took him to see those answers, when he did, he accepted them and moved on with life, optimistic of better days ahead.
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He bought me a 2005 Grand Prix after I got back from the mission.  Pretty awesome, right?  I thought he was the greatest dad ever to just buy something like that flat out (and still do).  Well, I went on a date that took me on a four hour drive to the northwestern corner of Colorado a while later.  On the way back I was very tired, but was also afraid to be late to work the next day so I decided to try driving through the very risky and windy road that is highway 139 back to Grand Junction.  Bad idea.  I feel asleep at the wheel maybe 5-10 miles outside the city and totaled the car by slamming in the back end of a big pickup truck.  $5000 dollars down the drain.  How my dad responded was fantastic.  He had called the insurance agent and requested the car be added to his plan on the way to buy it but, I guess, never finalized it.  So when I was fined and told I would have to face jail time for driving without insurance, he agreed to pay the legal fees to liberate me from such a burden and because of such, the courts decided to waive the jail time. I may have a few details of this wrong, but I know for certain that his response, both by action and word, to my mistake was a sign to me that he cared more about me than money, a car or anything else temporal for that matter.
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Priesthood blessings.  Some of the most reassuring and profound revelations and experiences in my life have been as a result of father's blessings.  Each school year, for example, my dad would give each of us kids a father's blessing before school, addressing any concerns we had and giving us encouragement, counsel and warnings to help us stay safe, happy and successful.  Before I started at Mesa Colorado University, the blessing I had from my dad told me that as much as I didn't study things of the world on the Sabbath that I would have successful grades as a result.  I graduated high school with a 3.14 GPA.  Three of my other siblings were 4.0 students, the hard workers who didn't seem to struggle much to keep their grades high.  Well, that year at school, I did end up studying for my Algebra final for a few hours on the last Sunday of the semester.  Everyone of my classes (even chemistry!!) were mid to high A's except Algebra, which ended up being a mid B.  I know, to this day, that it was because I studied on the Sabbath for those few hours.  A 3.84 blew me away and I am grateful for the inspiration my dad was worthy to receive in my behalf in times of need.  Righteous exercise of priesthood in the service of his family and his God, check.
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Above all, I know that my dad would not have the reputation he has today as one of the best doctors in western Colorado, a fantastic force for good, a man dedicated to his family and, most importantly to his God, if he hadn't proved it.  He's not perfect.  He has his flaws, but he doesn't need to be free of weakness or fault to be a fabulous example of a leader.  The most important thing I ever took away from anything he ever did or said was as follows.

No matter what anyone else does or says, I need to be aware of God's love for me, demonstrated through Jesus Christ.  I need to show that to and share it with others and to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in [H]im, and deny [myself] of all ungodliness".

Dad, I love you. You are awesome and I can never thank you enough for setting the right foundation for me growing up and continuing to encourage us to rise above the world and know of the love of God in our lives.  You really do prove that fatherhood is the greatest kind of leadership.

Happy Father's Day Dad.