Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Our Fathers

All across America today, families are honoring their fathers. Of course, the intent of this celebration is to recognize one individual in each family. Throughout the ages, though, the phrase “our fathers” had the connotation of remembering, collectively, our ancestors.

In our modern celebrations, we don’t often include that concept of ancestry anymore, though we can’t help but admit that we wouldn’t be what we are today without the groundwork laid by those “fathers.” When we talk about national matters, our country’s origin owes a debt to our “founding fathers.” When we talk about the various disciplines of study that made our modern age what it is, we often refer to the “fathers” of certain branches of medicine or fields of technology. And we study what they originated through classes at institutions established through the foresight of a university’s founding fathers. The “founding” of a family should be no different.

In ancient times, especially those revolving around concepts of clans, the father—the patriarch—was the all-important leader. The beginnings of the ancient Roman civilization owed much to the strength of their fathers. The very word, “patria,” evolved from the ancient Greek, demonstrating that culture’s perspective on the impact of strong fathers.

In our current times, it would serve us well to have a broader perspective on the impact of fathers, too—not just the father in the current household, but “fathers” in the sense of those whose foresight and leadership allowed our families to be what they are today. For every family originating on foreign soil but thriving here as transplants to this country, we have a father to thank. Whether that father chose to make his move two centuries ago or two generations ago makes little difference. It is what he chose to do that makes life what it is today for us, whether we have met that man in our lifetime or not.

And for the man our family is celebrating today? Let him see himself not as an individual merely living life for today and today alone: let him understand he is taking up his position in a long chain of men whose actions and choices have made the difference for generations to come. Fathers: someday, someone’s sons and daughters whom you’ll never meet will hopefully realize with gratitude that their lives would not be the same if it weren’t for the choices that you, their unseen ancestor, have made.

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