When I was a kid, we had a cat named Lally. Lally was your typical cat, really taking no mind to anyone else and caring only about herself and her well-being. She shed everywhere, woke us up at ungodly hours to be let outside, and generally went about her day with an attitude of the world revolving around her. Despite her rather prickly personality, we loved her. Late one summer evening my parents left to take our dog for a walk, and oddly, our cat decided to follow. About a half-mile in, another dog chased Lally up a tree. Hoping she would eventually make her way back across town, my parents finished their walk and came home. Hours past, and Lally still hadn’t returned. After several minutes of incessant pleading from my sister and me, my dad decided to take our dog back out in the dwindling daylight hours and find our cat. Sure enough, he found her clinging to a branch high up in the same tree located between the sidewalk and the road just in front of a cute, little house. I can just imagine my dad first calling softly to our stubborn cat, then pleading, then demanding for her to come down, all to no avail. Finally, leaving our dog at the base of the tree, he began to climb. As he reached the top branches, a car pulled up right in front of the tree and parked. A middle-aged woman got out and immediately spotted our obedient dog waiting patiently. She wagged her tail to say hello, then returned to her post under the tree. “Well, hello, you cute dog! Why are you here?” My dad clinged to his little branch, rather uncomfortable with the situation he found himself in. As the lady chatted with our dog, questioning who she belonged to, how she got there, and what they should do with her, my dad’s mind raced. Should he say something? Should he stay quiet and hope that the lady would eventually go away? He took his chances with the latter option, hoping to save some of his dignity and not startle this unexpecting woman. By now it was dark, and his perch was quite hidden in the branches. The petting and chatting continued, and soon the lady followed our dog’s gaze up the trunk of the tree. “Oh! There’s a cat! You BAD dog! What have you done?! Poor kitty, did you get chased up this tree? Bad dog. BAD dog!” If my dad was concerned before, now he was mortified. Only a few branches separated him from the cat, and he knew it was likely only a few moments before he would be spotted. On to plan B. Clearing his throat, he said, “Um, excuse me, Ma’am?” She started to scream.
After a few minutes of panic and threats, my dad was finally able to explain the situation to the lady, climb out of the tree, and make his way home. I don’t remember if he was able to recover the cat, but regardless she escaped the tree eventually, no worse for the wear, completely oblivious and totally ungrateful for the awkward and humiliating predicament she had put my father in.
If I had to choose one person that I thought quietly went about making the world a better place, it would be my dad. Chances are, if you know my dad well, you just really like him. I grew up in a small town, and I’m pretty sure my dad had stopped and chatted with every person that lived there at some point. He likes to say “Howdy!” when he passes people, give big smiles that reach his eyes making you always feel like he genuinely means it, and is always willing to help anyone. Growing up, he was a dad to the kids who didn’t have a dad in their lives, stepping in to go to scout camps and on hikes, hiring them to do little jobs so that they could learn to work. He spent his career as a high school special education teacher, which, in my opinion, speaks volumes about the type of person he is. Every time we visit, he creates a treasure hunt for my boys accompanied by an outlandish story often involving robbers or pirates, always leading to a treasure chest full of candy. He will drop everything and drive two hours to help me fix a chicken coop (and by help, I really mean do everything), play with my kids while I go to an appointment, or bring up something he’s built for us. He quietly serves everyone, yet expects no praise.
We often talk about how moms are the unsung heroes of today, but I often think that fathers deserve this lofty title as well. It’s so easy for us to recognize the behind-the-scenes work mothers do for their children, but the work a father does is no less exhausting, important, and hidden from the view of the world. We should be ever thankful for the men who come home after a long, sometimes frustrating day at work and tussle with the kids. That take their children on adventures, lend a hand with dishes after a meal, and tuck the kids in at night. The men who stress about making sure the bills get paid and the family is safe, that their kids are learning to be good people. It makes me sad when I hear others make fun of the role dads play, making light of their contribution to the family and treating them like they are incapable of doing the day-to-day tasks of raising children. Today, more than ever, we need men who take their responsibility as fathers seriously. Who fiercely love their family, who teach the hard lessons, who listen, who sacrifice and work and play. We need men who transcend the false mold of fathers that society has given them. Dads, we need you so much, and we respect and appreciate all that you do. Thank you for taking on the thankless job of father.
A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society. -Billy Graham
I’m thankful for my husband, who continuously strives to be an awesome dad, who puts our well-being above his own, and who makes life so much better for all of us. He makes us laugh, he takes us on crazy adventures, and he spends time making each of us feel loved. He goes out of his way to help and serve others. And I will forever be thankful for my own dad: Treasure hunt creator, chicken coop fixer, listener, wood worker, teacher, kindness and service exemplar, and cat rescuer. Amazing men like this are the very type of unsung hero the world desperately needs.