Who we are is a product of the people who shape and form our personalities long before we are fully aware of our dependence of them. No one is more important than the members of our family. Of that family, in most cases, our parents are the ones who have the most influence upon us.
In the early years of our lives, we are too busy growing and pushing the boundaries to realize how dependent we are on our mothers and fathers. Today is the day our nation sets aside to express our love to Dads. This is that day for those fortunate enough to still have their fathers as a part of their lives, and for those who no longer have their Dads in this world, to reflect on what they meant to us when we did have him as a part of lives. And maybe just pass on to our children and grandchildren that same love he gave us.
Each year we set aside the third Sunday of June to honor all fathers, both those with us and those who are only a memory. Just as we did in May for our Mothers, so we do in June with Father’s Day. This first started about a century ago.
The first recorded Father’s Day happened about 15 miles down the road from where the first Mother’s Day occurred in Grafton, West Virginia. It was at the Williams Memorial Episcopal Church South in Fairmont, West Virginia.
The person responsible for the first a day in honor of fathers was Grace Golden Clayton. This first attempt at a Father’s Day was on July 5, 1908. Six months before there had been a terrible mining disaster in the area that had killed 361 miners, of which 250 were fathers. Clayton suggested to her pastor that this day be dedicated to the victims of that disaster. The date of the first Sunday in July was not successful because of the conflict with July 4 each year.
The next claim to the first Father’s Day was in Spokane, Washington, in 1910 sponsored by the YMCA. Hearing a sermon on Mother’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd took the suggestions for a similar day for fathers to her Pastor. Her father was a civil war veteran who, as a single parent, had raised six children. She wanted to do it on his birthday, June 5, but it got delayed to give the Pastors of Spokane, time to change their sermons. The first date in Spokane was on June 19, the third Sunday of June. It has remained on the third Sunday ever since in our nation.
Really, there has to be more for the delay than just changing the planned sermons. We can all think of times when a preacher has to change the sermon on a much shorter notice. As I know happened following 9/11 or the assassination of President Kennedy or Dr. Martin Luther King. Or in a given congregation, a local emergency or issue that cries for the pulpit to address it. But whatever the reaon in the case of Father’s we settled on the third Sunday in June.
This may have worked because it is a week or so after vacations have started and two weeks before the break for the fourth.
Though never as popular as Mother’s Day the idea did spread across the nation. Lyndon Johnson issued the first Presidential Proclamation calling for the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day. In 1972 Richard Nixon signed a law making this observance a national holiday.
As we are growing up, we don’t always realize how indebted we are to our Father. Mark Twain put it well when he said, “When I was a boy of 14, my Father was ignorant. I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” But looking back we can see in most of our lives, the sacrifices our fathers made for us. As we raise our own children we indeed realize how wise our parents were. Another noted American writer, John Updike, wrote, “You know how it is with Fathers. You can never escape the idea that just maybe after all they were right.”
As a father of two and grandfather of four, I must confess that often when I found myself in a tough situation, I have found great guidance in thinking, how would my father or father in law, or grandfather handle this. It is amazing that when I dealt with much of the same things they faced, they were a lot wiser than I realized at the time.
May all the Fathers of our community and nation, realize how valuable they are. This is our day!