The secular celebration of Father’s Day can bring up all the stereotypes of perfect fathers or the baggage of painful memories of less than perfect fathers or of fathers who have passed away or reflections on the father figures in our lives. In John’s Gospel (John 14:9) Jesus says, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” Aside from its theological meaning, the line evokes a psychological truth of how much we are influenced by our parents, for good or ill even as adults. “Boy, you sound just like your Dad.”
At Catholic Charities, we work with quite a few fathers whose lives do not fit the stereotypes of the last century, but rather reflect the reality of the struggles to survive in our valley today. We welcome the refugee father who had to flee from war with his family (and who lives with the pain that not everyone made it out safely). We assist the immigrant father who works three jobs to keep his family together and who wants to get right with the law. We feed and visit the lonely grandfather whose own family may be in another state. We counsel the estranged father in how to learn parenting skills to be reunited with his children. We guide the teen father in how to escape the gangs and stay in school to get a job. We visit the imprisoned father who cannot see his own children. We inspire and connect the unemployed father with opportunities for work. We house the homeless father, so he and his family have a place to call home.
I am inspired to support this work at Catholic Charities, in part because of the lessons I keep learning from my own father. Be joyful. Sing. Dance. Enjoy life. Love nature. Love your family. Keep learning and teaching. Work hard, work smart and make work play. Listen. Be kind. Treat everyone with compassion. Wonder. Explore. Welcome the stranger. Once I asked Dad what we should include in our intellectual toolkit – what we need to consider as we live out our lives. He responded that we need to reflect on the enormity of time, the enormity of space, the infinitesimal tininess of a human life in space and time, and the importance to do the most good we can with the time we have, and to trust that God is in there somewhere.
If you want to join Catholic Charities as we help struggling fathers in our community, visit www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.