If you were to take a poll of what’s important for fathers to emulate to their children you’d have quite a few answers. Up at the top would be things like hard worker or good provider, great attributes that my own dad certainly gave. Many would tote honesty and integrity, both of which are definitely characteristics to be modeled and held in high esteem. Heck, I’ve even written about the importance of husbands treating their wives with dignity, respect, and love since their children will base their accepted norms on their parent’s behavior. And while I think that’s a huge responsibility of utmost importance, I expect even more of my husband in regards to training his daughters up correctly. I mean, loving me is easy for him. Treating me well isn’t a stretch. Certainly not as hard as loving the rest of mankind. No, I think my girls aren’t just watching how dad treats mom. They’re watching everything.
“Daddy is kind,” my eight year old spoke softly across the table to me.
“Yes, he is,” I responded with a smile.
I looked over at my husband laughing, smiling, and having a full conversation with a stranger. The man’s eyes crinkled at the corners and radiated a glee to match his smile as he conversed with my spouse. His atrophied hands gestured animatedly as he spoke. His head turned to the side to watch my husband dispose of his lunch trash as he sat still in his weathered, electric wheelchair, pulled up to a lone table in the eatery of our local shopping mall.
I had noticed him sitting there all alone at a table near us, eating Chinese noodles as best he could with the plastic utensils provided. He didn’t have a drink to wash the salty meal down, and I watched as my husband offered him the new bottle of water he had just bought for himself. I watched as he held the bottle up to this stranger’s lips and slowly tilted it up so he could drink. I watched as he dug through the fella’s backpack, per the man’s request, retrieving a pack of gum. I watched as my spouse helped clear his table, and I watched as he held a conversation with him. But I wasn’t the only one watching.
My eight year old spoke again. “Daddy says you should be kind to everyone because you never know when your actions might just make their day. I’ll bet Daddy made his day!”
“Yes, perhaps he did,” I mused.
A little later my husband said his goodbyes, the stranger in the wheelchair drove away, and my spouse took his seat beside me.
“Do you know who was watching you?” I asked, nodding towards our eight year old.
He glanced at our eldest daughter.
“Good,” he said.
Then he started eating his own lunch.
It was easier for a man to love his children, even easy to love his wife. He could work hard for them, help a next door neighbor without a thought, or give his time without hesitation to the church. And these were wonderful, great things! But what of the strangers? What of the people that everyone else ignored? The ones that people diverted their eyes so as not to stare. The invisible strangers who needed a hand, but usually just got walked on by. What about the people we didn’t know, the ones we didn’t feel obligated to assist, the awkward, unknown people that walked in our periphery? The stranger on the side of the road, beaten by life, alone and silent. Did we often walk to the other side of the road, look away, push it from our mind, keep moving? Usually, yes. It was a bit harder to help someone outside our own circle, beyond our front porch, or different from us. Yet weren’t we called to shine light on all the world?
My girls were watching their father, and I was proud they were. He treated me like royalty and with love, but then again, he showed his love to everyone he encountered. That love opened his eyes to everyone he encountered, even the lone, disabled guy at an empty table that a hundred others had ignored. His love came out as kindness to his fellow man, and his children saw this as just normal behavior. They saw it as the way you were supposed to be. They saw his kind heart, the impact it made on others, and my hope is that they would model it, growing up to always be a helping hand to those in need, a loving friend to all, and a bright light in a too often dark world.
They were watching him, and I was glad.