I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to
have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at
how much the old man had learned in seven years." - Mark
Initially, this message
was going to be pretty generic ... mostly about the history of Father's
Day ... but then I decided to make it more personal ... about my Dad ...
and share the lessons I have learned from him.
Reflecting back it is
interesting to note that I always called my father, "Daddy"
... even in my adult years. I would refer to him as "my
Dad" to others ... but in our personal interactions it was always
"Daddy." And even though our arguments were many ... the
term "Daddy" was proof that there was great affection between
us ... as father and son.
My father was a farmer
... and a very successful one. He supported twelve children and a
wife, farming in Missouri. Once he became a farmer, he never did
any other work. Farming was his life's work. He read more
than one newspaper almost every day and he read every "farm
related" magazine that was available at the time. He
understood crop rotation, soil erosion and fertilizer better than anyone
else I knew. Farming was not just something he did ... he chose to
do it more than anything else. He could buy livestock at market
and sit down and calculate how much it would cost to raise them ... and
then calculate how much he would make when he sold them at market in six
months time. He ran the farm like a business ... he never carried
a credit card ... never bounced a check and never worried about money
... his mind focused on ideas ... how to grow better crops ... raise
healthier livestock ... and how to expand the farm as his family grew
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "There
is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction
that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take
himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide
universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him
but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to
him to till."
My father didn't tell me how to live; he
lived, and let me watch him do it. No matter how much or how
little money was available at any time, my father always kept us from
feeling poor ... in spirit. He had a lively sense of humor ... and
in his earlier years would play the fiddle and dance around to almost
silly songs. He was a man of great honesty and integrity ... and
more often than not he would give to and help others even when it wasn't
advantageous for him to do so. He saw to it that we went to Sunday
school and to church whenever possible although he didn't much care for
church himself. His relationship with God was an honest one, based
on his understanding of God. He didn't particularly care much for
"preachers" who would rail against alcohol, gambling and other
vices ... and that was pretty much the mainstay sermon in the churches
in Mid-Missouri when I was growing up. Since he liked to drink
occasionally and gamble whenever a good card game was on ... the
preachers probably made him more than a little uncomfortable.
Reflecting back, I can honestly say that his understanding of the Bible
was probably more advanced than theirs anyway ... he had few, if any,
negative judgments about most people ... and, he was quite content to
"live and let live."
The great lessons my
father taught were: "stand for what you believe in" ...
"do unto others as you would have others do unto you" ...
"have a healthy respect for God" ... and most importantly,
"foster a sense of independence" ... for without
self-reliance, we are doomed to a life of self-imprisonment.
In other words, he taught us to cultivate and foster a "wonderful
spirit within" ... and pay little if any attention to the opinions
of the world!
So It Is!