While he had ideas about what I “oughta do” or perspectives on the quality of my work (and there was plenty on the farm), what he censored was his assessment of who I was as a person.
I wasn’t “good” or “naughty,” though I am certain my acts of youth-inspired debauchery perplexed him. I was only and always his son. My value as a person was unquestioned.
In the absence of judgment on my character, the message that filled my understanding was that I belonged, here and everywhere. I was approved. My way of being in the world was sanctioned.
My father’s endorsement imparted a confidence in me to take the difficult act when those around me step back, to say what needs to be said when others remain silent, and to do more with what I’ve been given when I’m tempted to do less.
Now, I’m a father, a husband, a leader, a member of a team and community. Regrettably, I confess a temptation to use the actions of others to define them. Each time I do, however, I live smaller. I separate us from the inherent and remarkable potential that is ours.
The man is no longer here to give me instructions. The ideal of valuing my fellow man, however, guides me still. For that, I celebrate my father’s days.
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