Happy Birthday to my daughter Lucy. She turns 17 today. Here is a column I wrote about our relationship as father and daughter five years ago, she was 12 years old.
Father's Day fodder: Volunteering is quality time for us both
By KEVIN LITTLE - June 14, 2013
I think we all know the expression “charity begins at home,” appardating from the 17th century.
Less well-known, but likely more influential, is the Bible itself, which proclaims that whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
And then there is the common expression we’ve all heard: “Family comes first.”
Who am I to contradict the wisdom of the ages, the Bible and common sense? But I do.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day, a minor family celebration when compared to Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving, but cause for reflection on how we view our role as family members nonetheless.
Because I am a father of an adopted child, I went through a rigorous process to determine if I was fit to be a parent. I remember one conversation that likely came close to terminating my chances when I suggested that how we teach our children about public service was as important as teaching them to swim.
“But your daughter only has one father; the world can find other helpers,” was the predictable response.
I can’t remember what I said then, but I know what I would say now: “The planet is in peril, billions live in poverty, and our communities need volunteers. Who tells them to wait their turn?” I don’t consider myself any more than an average Dad. I’d give myself a B-.
My wife is the Zen master when it comes to parenting, and I constantly seek her guidance as I navigate this dynamic new world. But my personal mission as a father has been to model a concern, a duty, and a passion to be about more than my household.
On more than one occasion, my daughter has had to postpone our plans to watch a movie or go to the park because of a pastoral emergency or community commitment. She understands, or so she says, because more often than not, I take her with me when I am involved in public service.
I can’t take my daughter with me when I am counselling someone in distress, but I can and do take her with me when I am volunteering for the food bank, when I am working at the church yard sales, and when I am delivering Christmas parcels.
In a world that appears to my daughter literally at her fingertips, it is important to me that this world is not only the people who live in our subdivision, who share our middle-class lifestyle or appear on reality TV.
Why do I write this?
Increasingly, I find agencies struggling to find volunteers from my age group. Granted, when both parents work outside the home, it can be difficult to justify taking precious time and giving it to others outside our families.
But if we drive our children to piano lessons, dance instruction, and martial arts training, why wouldn’t we drive them to our volunteer gig so our whole family can engage in the work of giving back to our communities?
If teaching our children an appreciation of the arts and fitness is important to us, why isn’t compassion part of our parental agenda?
On Saturday morning, my daughter and I drive to the food bank bin to remove its contents, put the clothing in our hatchback, and deliver them to the local food bank clothing centre.
Along the way, I share with my daughter who benefits from the food bank and how we need to change our economic system so food banks would not be needed. To keep things light and fun, we also talk about the used clothes, games and treasures we hope to find at the clothing centre.
It’s important to just have fun.
On Halloween, I love to surprise my daughter with a unique and colourful costume (can you say the Dalai Lama?). My daughter and I love to take our dog to Point Pleasant Park and let Nova run off-leash. My daughter and I exchange book titles. My daughter and I love to watch our favorite TV series, Law and Order: Criminal Intent (she says I remind her of the main character). And my daughter and I love to walk downtown and see the sights; she at the Black Market Boutique and me at any café!
We talk about our favourite things to do, to eat, to look at, to visit and to listen to. Among the things I most enjoy about my daughter is how she finds ways to use her unique talents and quirks to care for others and make a difference in her community, in the world.
As a minimalist, I don’t want anything for Father’s Day (except maybe some coffee beans). But the best present of all is spending time, volunteering, with my daughter. Maybe charity really does begin at home.