Years ago, I taught a group of 11-year-old boys which included my son. They were energetic; they captured my heart. One lesson in the course focused on teaching these young men the power and value of fathers. Until I started to prepare that lesson, I had not consciously realized that in this class of about eight, my son was the only one whose father lived with him and shared the faith and values of his mother. How could I approach this delicate subject?
The lesson contained the expected list of the qualities of a devoted father and the crucial role they play in families. I felt it would be more discouraging than inspiring to my class. Then, a simple story shared in the resources for the lesson changed my thoughts about honoring fathers forever. Here is the gist of the story:
A college coed attended a large religious gathering with her roommate’s family, which included six children. Their father was one of the featured speakers—a powerful man, well-known for his work in the government of the country as well as his church. The coed telling the story had never met him before and was impressed with his appearance and demeanor. As he approached the microphone, she felt a nudge and heard a whispered plea: “Pray for Dad.” Not sure how to relay the message, she simply repeated the words to the child next to her, then watched as it moved down the row toward their mother, who had already bowed her head.
In the coming years, each time this man spoke, the coed knew that his children, even as they grew up and moved away, were unitedly praying for their dad. This story provided the answer for teaching my students how to honor and support their dads, and I never forgot the valuable lesson it taught me as a young wife: no matter where a father is in his life, one way to help him in his monumental task is to pray for him. The author concluded, “And I have come to believe that the brief message that passed along the row … so many years ago is the most important message a family can share. What extraordinary power and faith any man can have to meet the daily challenge of his life if somewhere in the world his daughter or son is whispering, ‘Pray for dad.’”
What a splendid way to apply this month’s tenet, “We value the irreplaceable role of fathers and develop interdependent relationships with men.” Praying for dad could and should certainly include praying for our own earthly fathers, but if we broaden our view, it’s obvious that it also applies to all the men in our lives–the fathers and grandfathers of our children, our husbands, brothers, teachers, mentors, coaches, and those with whom we interact in our workplaces, schools, and communities.
I am filled with gratitude for a similar man and his large family who operated on the same principle. Earl Elmont was a beloved and passionate teacher who worked hard and creatively managed to provide for his children on a teacher’s modest salary. He recently passed away and his children reminisced about his life and legacy. One child alluded to his frugality and sacrifices, sharing a memory of opening a box of Frosted Flakes to discover a discouragingly small ratio of the sugared cereal to plain corn flakes. To add insult to injury, it was then topped with powdered milk.
My life was enriched because Earl meticulously planned educational bus tours in the summers, cutting every possible corner so we could afford to go. He shared his love and knowledge with us while his beloved wife Claire bravely held down the fort at home.
Claire said he was “a good man who truly did his best to be a good dad without having any model of his own! His father was 59 when Earl was born, and he died when Earl was 3, so few memories.”
Not one of Earl’s children described him as perfect, but each mentioned the iron-clad relationship of love and respect between him and their mother. At the funeral, Claire wore a badge which read, “I love Earl,” and he had one on his chest, with “I love Claire.” I believe that love was woven, in part, by the many occasions when this family joined their hearts and voices to “Pray for Dad.” Let us all do likewise as we work to build interdependent relationships with the men in our lives.
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