In Praise of Fathers

At first it was resisted. The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm as Mother’s Day –perhaps because, as one florist explained, “Fathers don’t have the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers. Two years later, Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day.

However, during the 1930s, a movement arose to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether in favor of a single holiday, Parents’ Day. But the Great Depression derailed this effort and the event went unobserved until the beginning of World War II. Advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.

Finally, in 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. Today, Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on the estimated 66.3 million fathers in the U.S. today.

A few months ago, our granddaughter celebrated her 6th birthday. What joy these little ones bring to us. But I have noticed some things about both her and most first graders in general. They do not always appreciate what parents and grandparents or anyone else do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. For the most part, the past is meaningless to them and so is the future. They live totally for the present. 

But as we grow older we become more appreciative of those who labored on our behalf. We recognize the value of applied memory: taking from the past valuable lessons and insights and using them in our lives today. And, in doing so, we come to see that a person’s influence…

…Is not reflected in a mirror.

…Is not defined by demonstration.

…Cannot be calculated by mathematics.

…Is not dissected by logic.

…Is not measured by a surveyor’s chain.

…Is not weighed upon earthly scales.

No one’s influence is the total impression one life makes upon another.

And on this Father’s Day, I thank God for eight men who have gone before me. Men who “fathered” me and whose influence has outlived them.

• My grandfather, Jeffery Richardson, (for his sense of humor and general disposition)

• My 6th Grade teacher, Vernon Harris, (for his love for learning and for his loving discipline)

• My Scoutmaster, Lawrence Souder, (for his lessons on leadership/love for outdoors)

• My Youth Pastor, Doug Fraley, (for his humility, unconditional support and actually letting me drive his car while on my learner’s permit!)

• My preacher & mentor, Wayne B. Smith, (for his love for God & His Word. I’m a pastor today because of him.)

• My friend Jewell Casey, an elder in my very first church, (for taking an interest in a young imperfect preacher & his faithfulness to God)

• My friend and encourager, Lee Brickey (for his support and encouragement.)

• And, my Dad, Roy Amerine, for deciding one day in 1956 to take his family to church. That decision introduced us all to Jesus Christ and ultimately set the course of my life.

Sadly, I was only able to personally thank three men on this list. The rest had already died. And that is why I urge you this Father’s Day to take time to reflect and give thanks. There are really no “self-made” individuals. We all owe somebody something and we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  So, let someone know you have been blessed by their sacrifice on your behalf.

And do it now, while you have the chance.

-Rick Amerine

Rick Amerine

Rick is the Senior Pastor at Maple Grove Christian Church, where he has served for over 25 years.