Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s a day that means a lot more to me now that I’m a father myself. That’s not only because I get to delight in the joy of having a daughter, but also because being a parent allows me to be more appreciative of my own father. I am now experiencing some of the thoughts and feelings that he must have had–and maybe still has. Things like fear and joy–fear that I’d be born healthy, stay safe, grow up to have a career and a family, develop a deep Christian faith of my own–and joy at being called Daddy, of being welcomed home from work, of getting asked to build forts at bedtime, and sharing laughs in silly moments. So, for Father’s Day, my gift to my Dad is to reflect on what he means to me, share that with him (and you), and make a gift that will honor him and hopefully help many dads in the process. We’ll get to all that in a moment, but first let me tell you about my Dad.
My Dad isn’t a stereotypical dad. He doesn’t hunt or fish. He doesn’t fix things around the house. He doesn’t drink beer or work on cars. He is not–and never was–very athletic (although he used to be pretty good at tennis when I was little). Probably the most stereotypical “dad” thing about my Dad is that he watches a lot of sports on TV. In fact, that’s basically the theme of the card I’m sending him this year. My Dad grew up on the grounds of a resort–where his father was the hotel’s president–and he went on to attend the Cornell Hotel School–graduating as the Valedictorian of his class. He’s worked at the Key Biscayne Hotel, the Mulberry Inn in Savannah, the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, IL, and the King & Prince Beach Resort in St. Simons Island, GA just to name a few. At one point, he ended up without a hotel management job and sold life insurance to make ends meet. These days he’s an Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Culinary Arts–a role he has poured himself into and in which he truly excels.
Having a non-traditional Dad means that there’s a lot of stuff I’ve had to learn the hard way–through trial and error–and a lot of stuff I still don’t know. I showed up at little league throwing “like a girl.” At a friend’s birthday party, I drove a four-wheeler into a pine tree. I shot a score of 120 in an 18-hole high school golf match. I had to outsource help in building my pinewood derby cars for Boy Scouts. I was the starting point guard for the math team. It wasn’t until after college that I learned how to change the oil in my car. You get the picture.
Then again, my Dad taught me an awful lot. He taught me how to keep score at a baseball game. How to do my taxes. How to solve for X when I was learning algebra. He taught me the value of hard work and the value of a dollar. He taught me the importance of loyalty to friends and family. He awkwardly taught me about the birds and the bees one afternoon on the way to Winn-Dixie. He impressed upon me the utmost importance of living one’s life before an audience of One. He taught me intentionally–and whether or not he knew it, he taught me unintentionally whenever he made the mistakes all of our parents inevitably make. The ones we promise ourselves we will never replicate if we ever have children of our own. The promises we then proceed to break with regularity.
In all of this, in his own way, he showed me–shows me still–that he loves me. One memory stands out as especially prominent in that regard. It was many years ago, and there was a “Dad and Lad” camping trip for the Boy Scouts. I’d grown up camping with my Mom’s side of the family, but my Dad was always conspicuously absent from those trips. Yet, when it was time for the “Dad and Lad” trip, he went with me. We were only there for a couple of days, but it was cold, rainy, and miserable. We slept on cots under a canvas tent, barely able to escape the rain, and entirely unable to escape the mosquitoes. We shot rifles. We did a woodworking project. We sang campfire songs that were uncomfortably childish for all involved. All of these things took my Dad way outside of his element–beyond sight of his comfort zone–yet he did them for me out of love. That is but one memory of many that I cherish. And, so, out of my love for him, I’m doing something differently this Father’s Day.
This year, there will be no necktie, no book, no gift card to Amazon. Instead, I’m giving a donation to an important charity in honor of my Dad. The charity is called Give 1 For Dad. It was started by the husband of a friend of mine in Durham, North Carolina. His dad has prostate cancer and is running out of options. The goal of the charity is to raise money to fund a clinical trial of a cancer treatment protocol at the Duke Cancer Institute. The cool thing is that the protocol uses a safe generic drug that promises to be effective (as opposed to the mostly toxic compounds typically used today). The problem is that, because it uses this generic drug, none of the usual suspects (i.e., pharmaceutical companies) are willing to fund the clinical trial.
Give 1 For Dad is essentially a crowdfunding endeavor with a twist. They ask that you simply give 1% of 1 day’s salary. For most people, that’s not much. For example, if your annual salary is $75,000, then your donation is just $3. By skipping a single cup of coffee, you could perhaps save the lives of many men–maybe even your own Dad. But that’s the least you can do. So ask yourself: What is your dad worth to you? Think about that, and then instead of another typical Father’s Day present, make a meaningful donation to Give 1 For Dad in his honor. Give as much as your Dad would give for you. Here’s the direct link to donate now, just in time for Father’s Day. And, if your dad is anything like my Dad, he’ll be thrilled to learn that you found a way to give him a fully tax-deductible Father’s Day gift.