That guy flying through the air is my dad. Awesome picture. Better man.
In 1961, he walked away from the opportunity to play in the NFL because his wife was about to have their first child. Remarkably, in that era, he could provide a better life for his family in the world of education than pro sports. For him it was not a hard decision. He believed there was no dream greater than the dream of what that unseen child could become.
As a result, he spent the rest of his life as a coach and educator investing in young men. He never raised his voice or lost his temper unless he smelled laziness, lack of character, or an overblown ego. When he did find that in one of his men, he would demand a change of heart or a change of scenery in clear and simple terms. If you followed him, you were compelled to believe two things.
- There is no defeat in a sold out heart.
- The sun will always rise in the morning.
He was harder on himself than he ever was on his kids. He saw in us the possibility to be all of the things he knew he wasn’t. However, he was wise enough to let us figure that out on our own.
In Jr. High, I wanted to quit football after one day because I was the smallest kid out there. Shockingly, he responded, “Go ahead”. After years of communicating to all of us in certain terms, “Witt’s don’t quit”, I could not understand how this came out of his mouth. However, I later realized he knew I didn’t really want to quit. He knew that I was afraid of failing. I had never wanted anything more in my entire life but to play that game. However, the coaches had taken one look at my skinny frame and placed me on last string…B team. He knew what I wanted from him was a parachute of blame. That way, after failing, I could point to him and say, “I didn’t even want to play this stupid game but my dad made me.”
However, he knew the difference between standards and dogma. He knew that football was only a game, but this moment in my life was full of growth. “Quit”, he said. “It’s only a game. But, if you want to play, then stop complaining and go help your team.” He taught me three things that day.
- Life has priorities and things like football are not on the list.
- Success is not about first string.
- He was paying attention.
In college, when my life reached its darkest moment, I needed a leader. Of course, there was one man who had been the very essence of the unspoken standard to which we hold all leaders. Therefore, in my moment of crisis, I turned to him.
There are a ton of books written about how to be a good father. I say it isn’t that complicated.
There are a ton of books written about how to be a good father. I say it isn’t that complicated. We all know one when we see one. I have experienced it first-hand. My dad wasn’t perfect. However, he was full of integrity and he was there, paying attention. Therefore, this picture of him I keep in my office is more than a fond memory. It represents the man that I need to be to nurture the boys God has placed in my life. It asks me three questions every day.
- Do my kids see in my daily life the essence of the things I say I believe?
- Am I paying attention to the dream of who they are becoming?
- Am I present in a way that builds my credibility as a leader they can trust?
I believe in the Word of God. If I can simply be what I believe, they will follow me. If I am something else, they will most likely look for something else to follow. It’s that simple. Everything else I read about being a dad is just vocabulary.
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