Today is the day that tradition has set aside in our nation as the day we honor our fathers. Though there is no clear history on the day. When we look at the time line, the day came into existence after Mother’s Day was first observed.
Most fathers would not argue that is the way it should be. Perhaps the best claim to the start of this day was in Spokane Washington in 1910. Mother’s Day was started in West Virginia three years before.
Though it would take years for the day to become “official”, the observance spread fairly quickly from Spokane, by 1926 a national Father’s Day Committee was formed. It has continued with its major work being to recognize several national Fathers of the Year and to raise funds to deal with charities working with families and children.
The day was recognized by a joint resolution of Congress in 1956. In 1966 Lyndon Johnson proclaimed it a national holiday and in 1971, Richard Nixon signed into law an act by congress making the day official. It ranks fifth in the most popular days to send a greeting card.
I think we have seen this tradition grow and become a part of our national culture because we need to be able to express our love and appreciation to our fathers. My father has been dead for almost fifty years and not a Father’s Day goes by that I don’t think of something I wished I had said to him or time I should have spent with him. If you still have your Dad, don’t let this day get by without expressing your love to him.
The last few months I have watched a pair of Canadian Geese with their new family on the pond behind our home. It was on Mother’s Day that we first saw them, a proud Father leading the way across the pond with five little goslings following and Mother bringing up the rear keeping them all in line. Over the weeks that have followed, I have watched both parents carefully guide the growing family and guard them when needed. When there is a need to push them along, both parents work together to get their flock where they need to be.
Ideally it is that way with humans as well. It works best when both parents are involved in the life of their children. It took both to create life and I am convinced it takes both to nurture each life.
Peter Marshall was one of the great voices in the American pulpit in the middle of the twentieth century. The first church he served as pastor was Covington’s First Presbyterian Church. The story of his life, “A Man Called Peter” was the first movie shot in our community. He was truly a powerful preacher.
One of his sermons was entitled “The Keepers of the Springs”. Marshall wrote this as a Mother’s Day sermon but the truths of his message applies just as well to fathers. He told a story of a town council that in trying to balance the budget found a line item for the keeper of the spring. No one seemed to know what this “Keeper of the Spring” did so they sent word that he was no longer needed.
You might recall what happened. The beautiful stream that flowed through the town and the entire town was dependent on began to grow polluted, discolored and filled with debris. Of course when they investigated, they discovered that for years the keeper had quietly gone about his duties making sure the spring that fed the stream was kept clear of trash. When he stopped, the results showed downstream.
So it is with being a parent. The most important things we do will never make the headlines. But if we fail to do what we can to nurture and love our children the results will be seen “downstream”. How does one measure one’s life? Is not one of the most important measurements what we see in the lives of our children and grandchildren? God has given us no greater task than to be a parent.
The strength of our nation is found in the family. And just as I have watched those two geese working together to nurture their five little goslings, so in families we need to work together to insure a greater future.
When I was in the active ministry and visited a first time family in the hospital, I would always say jokingly, “Congratulations, you have just had your last night of good sleep.” Whatever age your child might be, you are always on “duty”, just the needs you need to be available help. As we honor our fathers this day, let us realize how dependent we have been on them through life.
To all the fathers of our community, I wish you a happy Father’s Day.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.