I had an amazing father. I am incredibly lucky to have amazing parents. The best.
My dad taught me, among other things, about the importance of having fun, the power of passion, and the desire to give it all I have. Going the ‘extra mile’ was in his DNA: whether it was flying an airplane, saving lives, cheering us on at sports, throwing a party, or showing up at my school when i had a project on Costa Rica with a crate full of fruit from Costa Rica for the class (how? no idea…) – he just embodied “all in” as a Dad to me. He encouraged us, and believed in us. He pushed us, and expected a lot from us. And most of all, I felt that his capacity for loving me, and being proud of who I was – whatever that was – gave me the confidence to try hard, to believe in myself, and to find my own passion. It also contributed to me being a very happy person. I always felt very lucky and blessed.
I remember the day as a kid, when I realized that mothers and fathers are just people. They make mistakes, make bad choices, have bad days, feel worry and stress and sadness. It was mind blowing to think of my parents as actual entities separate from who they were to me. But that reality eventually became central to my respect for my parents and the choices they made for me – it also became crucial to my understanding of parenthood and my growing curiosity around how a person flips that switch one day and just … becomes a Mom or Dad.
I was asked recently to provide my perspective on a story through my blog, about another father and his daughter. I agreed to do it, because I believe Fathers are such important people. They play a role in our lives as little people that shapes who we become. Through their choices, in their presence and their absence, they help create ‘normal’ for their children. The world is not an easy place. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have grown up in the country I did, with the means we had, and the love we felt. It becomes so easy to sit and judge… The Dad who isn’t able to work, or who doesn’t play with his kids, or who walks away. But it’s only in choosing to read stories like this one that I continue to recognize that I have no idea what their world consists of, and no right to judge another person for choices that I can’t possibly understand. We do have a an obligation though, or at least I feel like I do, to start to understand the world a little bit more. To dig deeper into the situations that result in impossible choices. If you take away the means, and the social liberties, and the endless possibilities – you are still left with a father and his daughter, and the choices that are made that shape her world.
The story that was shared with me by imagine1day takes place in the town of Guangua, Ethiopia. There lives a Father, Mezgebe. He has seven children, and few resources, and a difficult life. Four years ago he decided to marry off his eleven-year old daughter, Mebrhit hoping that the gifts and support from her husband would help his family. Choices that seem impossible to me, a world away. When his daughter discovered the marriage that was planned, she turned to her trusted teachers for help and support and they intervened. They housed her in the school and went to speak with her parents on many occasions. Eventually, Mezgebe returned the gifts, and called off the wedding and his daughter returned home and continued to get an education. Through this choice, in a world far from my own, a father showed his daughter how much he valued her, and believed in her. Now a high school student who can help the family because she has the support and confidence to learn, Mebrhit sees options in living a life she would not have otherwise known. And her family is reaping the rewards of her confidence and education.
And as much as I struggle with it, I am learning daily that not only do I have no right to judge other people for their choices, but I have a responsibility to seek to understand their world and to help if and where it’s wanted. It’s hard. It’s so much easier to just not pay attention. But my mom taught us that we’re given gifts so that we’ll share them – and this story reminds me of this in the purest form. Please visit imagine1day to learn more.
My Dad made the choice to greet most days with a new (loud) song from the Lion King sounds track or by Rod Stewart, and a big breakfast, and a big grin. The possibilities for each day were endless when they started with that much joy. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what my Dad would think about a situation, how he would chose to respond to a challenge, or what he would look like playing with our three wonderful kids. I miss him more than I could ever express and I’m grateful every day for who he was to me. Because of the choices he made in raising me, I am who I am today.