(Because that’s what we always called my dad)
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13
This is a piece I wrote exactly 20 years ago, at a time when I was getting ready to welcome my first grandchild into the world. Well, Jack Hartwell, my first grandson, is now 20 years old. I thought it might be good to share my thoughts about my own dad, and how he impacted those around him. You will note that this was written before social media was a thing. Think about how much more toxic the world has become since this was written in 2000. Here is how that looked in July, 2000:
I can’t help but think about my own dad, who was “grandpa” for so many years that he seemed to own the copyright on the title. He was a great, classic grandpa – warm, smiling, loved kids. He also had a great belly, a hearty laugh, and a warm embrace.
What a grandpa he was!
My dad was a life giver. He passed away quietly on November 20, 1997, having lived a generous 90 years. He was a life giver, not only in the physical sense of fathering four children, but in the sense of affirming people and making them feel better for having met him.
His way of valuing people was an education for me. My dad always showed an interest in people, and he always found a way to get them to talk about themselves. He knew that by developing an interest in people, he showed them respect and affirmation. He did this, I believe, quite naturally because that is the way he thought people ought to be treated. That’s why people used to like to be around my dad, and why his funeral had such an outpouring of affection from people.
We need more life givers. There are plenty of people in the world who are life “drainers”. You know them. They are people who tend to be critical and cynical. We live in a cynical world, one which is feeding on talk shows on both television and radio. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about everything, and often it is a critical or witty comment which hurts people or damages their reputation. Listen sometime to a talk show and count how often the comments are critical and hurtful, and how often the comments are uplifting or affirming. I think you will be amazed at the amount of poison available on the airways.
What can I do where I am to be more of a life giver than a life “drainer”? First, take an interest in people. Look for the things in people that are right and good and treat them as if that is how they are. People tend to begin to act in response to the way they are treated. Second, set aside a few minutes each day to write an encouraging note to someone (e-mail works too, though it is not as personal), or to make a quick phone call to someone who needs encouragement. Third, make it a point to laugh with people. Life is too short not to enjoy lots of laughter with people. Finally, look for the good in a situation. Most people can easily find the bad in a given situation. Be the one who finds the good.
A nod or a smile given away to someone, or time spent talking with someone, can be the “make it or break it” part of the day for them. We may never know how much we have touched people simply by talking with them in the office break room for ten minutes.
My dad positively affected many people that he encountered during his life with a smile and an openness to share himself. He didn’t change the world, but he did change the world for the people who knew him and his gentle spirit. That’s a wonderful legacy that I would like to pass on.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the gift of my dad. We are grateful for such examples of your love, Amen