Among the many examples my dad set for my life – he loved our country (served in the 10th Mountain Division in WWII); he loved my mom (58 years married); he loved our community (instrumental in obtaining the playground equipment) – and the roles my dad played in my life – baseball coach, Soap Box Derby enthusiast, and, for a time, my employer – one was Cub Scout Master. My mom was my Den Mother.
One night at one of our scout’s gatherings, dressed in my uniform where proudly displayed was my newly acquired Bear Badge, I was jumping from tabletop to tabletop in our little elementary school.
The tables folded out from the wall and thus weren’t the kind that were going to collapse even in an earthquake, much less under my weight.
I know. Whatever could I have been thinking? I wasn’t.
Then I saw his face. And later at home there were, well, let’s just say, consequences.
On this Father’s Day, there’s a lot on Facebook extolling the virtues of a father as to the difference he makes and the impact he has on his children.
In his book “Fatherless America,” subtitled “Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem,” author David Blankenhorn explores absenteeism – not of kids from school but of fathers from their child’s life: “more than half of the nation’s children are without a father in the home.”
My father wasn’t absent. He was present. Almost – at times to my chagrin – omnipresent.
And on this Father’s Day, bereft of my dad now 15 years, I think I am thankful most for the boundaries he set, the borders for acceptable behavior he circumscribed, and thus the consequent boldness and confidence – having marked out the differences between right and wrong – to speak up.
INC magazine once opined the greatest need of a CEO from those under his charge, let alone from his or her second in command, was honesty, not loyalty.
To challenge the status quo; to think outside the box; to color beyond the lines; to rock the boat; to question authority; to bring power to account; to play – nay, play for keeps when it’s not a game – devil’s advocate, how much better these than to go-along-to-get-along; to second that motion without following discussion; to get, and stay, in line like dominoes hoping no one – to mix metaphors – upsets the apple cart or suggests the emperor has no clothes.
Because no one spoke up, five of the nation’s top snowboarders perished.
Because warnings went unheeded, three passengers on Amtrak 501 would die.
Because a safety buzzer in the cockpit was delayed for repairs, the plane would crash.
And though far less of consequence is the game the Mariners lost to the Padres when Cameron Maybin walked to first base on ball three, the principle is the same:
When we fail to voice – even repeatedly, and ever more loudly – what is a perceived or real danger, for some misplaced fear of being judged a whistleblower, or labeled a curmudgeon, lest we become a target ourselves of criticism for having oft-pointed fingers, then we are hardly any better than a dry stream in the desert; a missing, or too-small-to-be-noticed, signpost warning of a curve in the track ahead.
As someone wrote, ‘How can we warn if we won’t confront, correct if we won’t challenge, and contend if we won’t question? Are we content to coddle and comfort rather than stir and convict?’
From jumping on tables, to gingerly sitting at the table, I am thankful for my father.