Father’s Day is coming, but I’ve already received my presents. And, I’ve given some, too. There’s no place in my life for ties. I’m not a golfer, and I don’t need cigars or fine whiskey. I don’t have dads around anymore to celebrate Father’s Day with, but I do have sons. Sons need gifts, too, and they need to be part of celebrating fatherhood.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.”
—Johann Friedrich von Schiller
There are a lot of sons in my life, young men I listen to, and talk with about their lives. My task is giving them what I hope are some good examples of how to live one’s life, and how to grow into healthy manhood.
I take time for them, listen to them, hear what is truly on their minds, their fears and their dreams.
My most important gift to them is a steady, sincere belief in all of their possibilities. If they sense my intention to completely and unconditionally support them in their struggles to be good sons, to be healthy, productive young men, then I have done my job as a friend and as a father in their lives.
I show up, and I am present in their lives. I listen, I try to understand, I am with them in a bit of their journey in life. Other men in their life, other fathers, aren’t around, and aren’t there for them, when their journey gets a bit tough, when they’re not sure of their way in the world.
I’m there. I fill up their mug of coffee, and I look into their eyes. I’m open to hear about their lives, and I care.
Sometimes, there’s awkward silence, and sometimes, there is a torrent of stories and emotions. Sometimes, we just sip coffee and play cards, or talk about the weather, or what they are doing in school. But, even then, we’re reaching out to each other, learning how to do this fathering dance, and opening up their hearts.
These sons need someone to believe in them, to give them that sense of importance they need to find their place in the world, to be confident in who they are and where they are going.
I give them my heart, and I listen to their stories. I cheer them on, and am the quiet, steady voice in their corner, urging them forward, letting them know they matter.
I receive a lot of gifts back from these young men, these sons who are going out in the world, and making a difference in their lives, and making a difference in the world.
They are taking on the tough issues, and working hard to change their lives, moving ahead, and taking on the tough jobs to reorder and reshape their lives. They are in school, working in demanding jobs, having meaningful relationships based on love, mutual respect, and self actualization.
They are reshaping their lives, and helping others change, and become the person they want to be.
They’ve learned to ask the tough questions, and to reform their attitudes and their ambitions, growing into healthy young men, and truly being productive.
They are believing in themselves, and seeing all of their possibilities. They take on their struggles, their self doubts, and they are learning to not listen to those voices in the past that told them they were failures, that they weren’t good enough. Instead, they are the believers and the preachers of love and compassion, the builders of a healthier family and a healthier community.
These are the gifts that matter. These are the gifts on my list for Fathers’ Day.
—Neal Lemery, June 10, 2014