Engine roaring, our one-ton truck jarred, shook and rocked as it laboured up the steep rocky river bank. The screaming and pounding on the cab roof started as we finally neared the top. “Daddy! Daddy! Stop! Blackie fell off!”
My wife, clinging to her seat beside me, glanced at me but wisely said nothing. It was the afternoon on the third day of difficult travel from our home on the mission centre in Belem, to the Canela village in Brazil. Jo knew I was nearing the end of my ability to cope.
I kept going, accelerating through a stretch of deep sand on the trail at the top of the bank. If we slowed down there we would get bogged down and never start again. After 100 metres, we reached a piece of solid ground and I stopped. As I slid out of the cab and walked back along the heavily loaded cargo, 10-year-old Valorie leaned down from her perch on the cargo and explained, “Blackie fell off just after we crossed the river. Leanne let go of him when she had to use both hands to hang on.” Wide-eyed youngest daughter Cheryl nodded, saying, “It wasn’t her fault.” Leanne, at the very back was hunched over, crying.
I slogged back through the scorching sand, scrambled down the rocky slope, and saw Blackie near the bottom, lying limply on the sharp rocks. I picked up the much worn, black stuffed toy dog and clambered back up the slope. When I tossed the toy up to Leanne, she smiled through her tears and said, “I didn’t think you would stop.”
That night, I kissed our girls goodnight as they snuggled into their beds in our mud-walled, palm thatch house. Leanne, holding Blackie with one arm, hugged me tightly around the neck with the other. “I thought I had lost Blackie forever. But then you stopped and walked all the way back to get him. You are the best daddy in the world!”
So what had I done to become “the best daddy in the world”? Spent money? Not a dime. Spent time? A ten-minute walk which is nothing in a three-day trip. Spent time in profound thought and planning? Naw, not a bit. Exercised my sensitivity? Well, maybe a little.
It was, after all, hard to ignore three daughters pounding their fists on the roof of a truck cab, just inches above my head, and screaming, Daddy! Daddy! And then, when I got down and saw a tearstained face and shoulders racking with sobs, even a relatively insensitive lout like me would tend to perceive there might be something going on that needed attention. I listened as Valorie explained the problem. Aha! A problem! I’m a problem solver, so this was right down my alley. And so I became, in the opinion of one 8-year-old girl, “The Best Daddy in the World.”
In summary: 1) I noticed something needed attention. 2) I listened as the problem was explained. 3) I used my gifts and abilities to solve the problem and meet the need.
If you are thinking, Hmm, I’m going to follow this simple three-step program, so that on this Father’s day I will be my kid’s hero, here is some advice. In this Blackie incident, I didn’t need my wife’s help to sense something needed my attention but usually I need to ask her to help focus my attention on what is needed. I sometimes need her to explain the problem. And when I am really dense she needs to suggest what I could do about it. You may want to do the same. Then you act, using your best abilities and gifting, and Tadaa! You become a hero.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a deep and lasting impression on a young daughter or son. May our heavenly Father help us earthly fathers to make positive impressions, maybe even heroic impressions, on our children.