My father was a mentor and a teacher, both in his life and after his death. He died when I was 10 years old and, although I had precious little time with him, he left me with a lifelong imprint of how to be a man.
Safety. Oh to feel the confidence of that again, that nothing ever, ever could harm me! He could vanquish dragons on my behalf! I basked in the warmth of others’ admiration for him as I was Fred Odell’s son! I can still feel his warm hugs, knowing that all was right with the world when he was near, or the touch of his hand when we walked to the comic book store in the center of town. Once I asked him why he always insisted on being on the street side on these outings, and he said, “So I can protect you.”
Which brings me to the courageous part. Because he knew I was safe he encouraged me to be courageous. He wasn’t always around but when he was he made time for me. I knew that when I came in from a hard day of playing, with scrapes and bruises, he would be kind and bandage me up and tell me to get back out there.
“Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not why they are made!” he would say. He didn’t just tell me; I could SEE him doing it. I could see him getting up to go to work to provide for our large family. As Director of Development for Allegheny College I could see his fundraising charts on his office walls. I could see the approving smiles on people’s faces as we walked by them on the streets. They – and I – knew he was up to something big. He was out there most days making a difference in the lives of others and it made me want to be that way too.
I think these are the two best qualities that a man can have: to create safety and in that safety to encourage courageousness. When we teach our children that they are safe and deeply loved, that nothing will stand in the way of that love, then they will feel strong enough to take chances. And with that love we are asked to make others’ lives better. Courageousness comes out of safety. It’s too easy to be comfortable. The world is filled with comfortable people doing comfortable things. But my father inspired me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and to work hard to make the world better. These are qualities I try to share with my now (almost) grown daughters.
So on this Father’s Day I invite you, male or female, to think about how you can bring healthy mature masculine energy to the ones you love. What is your personal mix of safety and courageousness? Do you listen to others’ endless complaints and stand by as they don’t step into their own power? Do you listen to your loved ones’ stories just long enough to tell them what they should do? Or do you make sure they feel safe and heard and then challenge them to be the best version of themselves?
Thanks, Dad, for giving me access to the harbor and the ocean. I love you.
Happy Father’s Day!
Courage: A Woman’s Place acts bravely and boldly, not withstanding fear.*
*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place
Father, son, & AWP Volunteer