Why am I writing stories?
To have two people see something in the same way, to actually get in another’s shoes and learn something, to come to an understanding, stories are a useful thing. To make my point, it’s probably easiest to tell you one.
First, to begin our experiment, what would the tidbit “Be happy for what you do have,” mean to you?
“Thanks, Bud.” You’d say. Right?
If that were a breakfast food it would probably be dry toast. Or maybe cold oatmeal without milk or sugar.
Not very inspiring.
Not very helpful.
Now let me tell you about Audrey. I met her while living at L’Arche. This grandma was sweet, kind, never one to make her weight felt in a room: forever deferential.
But then one day she wasn’t.
Just for fun.
She was being helped from the table by an assistant to start her nighttime routine. And this tea-and-Disney-loving lady who'd you never heard swear or rush anyone says:
“Hurry, up, will ya, I have to shit.”
The assistant said with an air of mock disbelief.
“Poo poo poo poo. Ok. I gotta poo”.
I clenched hard and managed not to completely piss myself.
But, Audrey as sweet and good for a laugh as she was, still had some institution left in her. She needed to be reminded to slow down when she ate (we aren’t going to take it on you Audrey, it’s ok). But for the most part, spending the better half of her life with no privacy, no community, nor general sense of human dignity being shown her had little effect on her spirit.
Well, it had a profound effect. But sure as heck not to make her bitter.
Quite the opposite.
One night we were staring out the window after supper.
A quiet moment.
I was trying not to be bored.
Audrey piped up:
“Isn’t that the most beautiful thing that you've ever seen?
I mean the way it’s falling and shining.”
And then I saw it, the crystal-like reflection from the streetlight on the snowflakes as they swirled.
We were silent a minute.
“And here we are in our own house, warm. A lot of people don’t even have their own rooms.”
And then she tapped her wheelchair getting a bit excited.
"And birthday cakes on your birthday and people sing happy birthday and you get to choose what you want for dinner sometimes."
She didn't stop there and went on for a good 5-minute litany of thankfulness. I was glad to be reminded how to enjoy a good street light shining on a snow fall.
“Be happy for what you do got, that’s what I always said. Happy as a lark, why not to be?”
Audrey said in closing.
"Be happy with what you do got," crosses my mind more often than Audrey could imagine. And it's better than dry toast for me.
We need story because it puts meat on the bones. It flushes out what it is to be human and walk in someone else’s shoes.
I want my kids to have that. A love of reading. The ability to get swept up in story.
What’s on offer for dads to share with their kids - the early years anyway - the picture book stuff - well - it’s pretty slim pickings.
Once they’re old enough for chapter books then you’ve got it made. Plenty to choose from. My kids and I have made it through a dozen classics reading aloud together and the oldest is nine. The juicy stuff brimming with allegory, adventure and meaning.
And there’s not none - but there should be more - stories that dads love to read to their kids for the early years.
Stories that are fun. Where there’s Triumph. Overcoming. Something of a little substance.
I was a stay at home dad for a while when my older ones were young and I spent hours a day reading books about moms. And then when the dads did show up they were mostly goofy. It drove me nuts.
To help change the narrative on fatherhood, I figure it's a good as a place as any to start. To give meaning and depth and importance to the dad-child relationship through the use of story - there now - how’s that for a purpose.
Anyways, that’s what I’m up to.
Planting the seeds.
And seeing what grows.
I’d love for you to join me.