Earlier this week I accompanied my wife to the supermarket. This isn't my favorite retirement activity, but Julie has had some health problems lately and needed my help. Glad to do it.
Upon finding a parking spot, I noticed a young mother and her son who I am guessing is 3-years-old. Bent over near their car the boy was adjusting his jeans to cover his western boots.
Cowboy boots were on my “wanted” list when I was a kid and I could tell this boy was proud of his.
Inside the store a few minutes later, we caught up with the young mother and her son who was sitting in his mom's shopping cart.
“That's a nice pair of boots you're wearing,” I said to the boy. He looked up with a big grin and said, “My dad has a new pair of boots for church.”
“Are your dad's boots like yours?” I asked.
“Kind of,” the boy replied.
The child was wearing a camouflage sweatshirt with a John Deere logo. “I like your John Deere sweatshirt, too,” I said. “Do you and your dad have a John Deere tractor?” I realized that wasn't likely in our suburban community, but you never know.
“No, but my dad has a John Deere sweatshirt just like mine,” the boy said proudly.
We visited a little longer and I exchanged a few words with his very proud mother and then caught up with my wife.
The talkative little guy had brightened my morning.
As I thought about him and the pride he had in his father I was reminded of how proud little boys are of their daddies. When we still lived on the farm I loved following my father around as often as possible.
The week I turned five-years-old we moved into town and Dad went to work for the local farmers' co-op elevator. During the fertilizing season he made frequent trips to Eagle Grove 45 miles away to get another load of bulk fertilizer. Before I started school I got to ride along on some of those trips.
I was so proud to sit in the truck and watch my dad drive. Sometimes we would stop for a bottle of soda pop; on occasion we stopped at a dairy on the south side of Eagle Grove for an ice cream cone. My father was so cool.
Ten years later I had become a smart mouth teenager and our relationship soured. Through those teen years, regardless of how upset I would get with him, I never forgot how much I had enjoyed riding in the truck with Dad. Today, nearly 65 years later, those truck rides are among my most precious memories.
Our church small group is currently studying a book, Divine Direction, by Craig Groeschel. At our most recent meeting, the discussion leader read Proverbs 13:20 (“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” New American Standard). Then she asked about the best advice we had received from someone who is wise.
I instantly thought of a quote from the late and very wise Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame University. “The most important thing a father can do for his children,” Father Hesburgh wrote, “is to love their mother.”
I read Father Hesburgh's wise words when my children were small and I took them to heart.
Around that same time, I also read a quote by the late David O. McKay, former longtime president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. President McKay wrote, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”
Though I was aggressively trying to climb the ladder of career success, McKay's words helped me balance my ambition. I would rather have been a failure in my career than in my responsibilities to my wife and children.
I thought of those two quotes again after my conversation with the boy wearing western boots and a John Deere sweatshirt. He loves his daddy and is proud of him. I trust his daddy loves him and is raising him in the spirit of the wisdom of Father Hesburgh and President McKay.