Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and father figures!
By Rev. Sandra J. Wayne Campbell
Scripture reminds us to “honor your father and mother so that your days may be long upon the earth.”
My father, Grady Wayne, Sr., may not have been the best role model; but he was still my dad. He was a young father in his early twenties when he was drafted in World War II, leaving my mother and their three young children—one of them a newborn—behind. The newborn, Willie, contracted pneumonia while daddy was away at boot camp, and died at 16 weeks old just before daddy was deployed overseas. Daddy was able to come home to the family farm in Marion, Louisiana, just long enough for the burial but not long enough to console his grieving wife and three and four-year old son and daughter. While he was deployed, Daddy drove ammunition trucks behind enemy lines in what is commonly known as “The Red Ball Express.” The Temptations sang about it in “Keep On Truckin.’” I was born several years after the War. Growing up with daddy was tumultuous at times. I don’t think we had ever heard the term PTSD, but now we know that like many of the battle-worn soldiers, he suffered from it. Eventually, his drinking led to his death—due to homicide on Christmas Eve, 1976. My father worked as a Metal Finisher at General Motors’ Fairfax Plant in Kansas City, Kansas for more than two decades. He had an impeccable work ethic, which he passed on to us three children. He was kindhearted and he cared about everyone — especially strangers. In fact, I don’t think he ever met a stranger. If he came across someone who needed anything, he would literally give them the shirt off his back. He and my mother, who shared the same southern hospitality, would give them a place to sleep in our home, food to eat, and anything they needed without expecting anything in return. I was only twenty-five when my father was murdered. Despite his shortcomings, I take pride every year in honoring my father not just on Father’s Day but every day. I realize that not everyone has fond memories of their parents. As I often tell others seeking advice about difficult parental relationships, our parents can only teach what they know. The same is true for us. And, as Maya Angelou
once said, “when you know better, you do better.” The key here is to practice forgiveness.
In a recent issue of Spiritual Passages, Scott Awbrey tells of a ritual of the Babemba Tribe in South Africa. Whenever a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, they are placed alone in the center of the village. All work ceases and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Each person speaks to the accused one at a time, recalling the good things the person has done in their lifetime. They speak aloud every incident and experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy. All of the accused’s positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and acts of kindness are recited carefully and at length. The tribal ceremony lasts for days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken and a joyous celebration takes place. The person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.
Grady Wayne, Sr., is no longer here where I can see and touch him, but he lives on in my heart. I know that although he is on the other side, I can still tell him how much he means to me, remind him of the good that he did, and tell him that I love him. I encourage everyone who has or has had a father figure to do the same. That is worth more than a shirt, tie, sporting equipment, flowers, or a dinner. Love is priceless and it lasts forever!
Thank you to all fathers and father figures who did and are doing their best to live the truth they know.
The History of Father’s Day
If you are a father or a father figure who enjoys being celebrated on Father’s Day, you have a woman to thank. Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, gave birth to the idea of Father’s Day. She was sixteen when her mother died giving birth to Sonora’s fifth sibling. Her father, William Jackson Smart, a civil war veteran, spent his final years raising his children alone. Because of his sacrifices, Sonora revered her father. When she heard of Anna Jarvis’ efforts to get national holiday status for her invention of Mother’s Day, Sonora put her energy into creating a celebration for fathers.
On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event honoring fathers. The Sunday sermon was in memory of 362 men who died in the previous December’s explosions at Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah. It was a time of commemoration and not an annual holiday.
The following year, Sonora Smart Dodd went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers, and government officials to drum up support for her idea. As a result of her efforts, Washington State held the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. Sonora’s efforts to get the U.S. to recognize Father’s Day as a national holiday would take almost her entire life.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, DC.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day.
When World War II began, advertisers promoted Father’s Day to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day had become a national institution.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday.
Today, we in the United States honor fathers and those who are and have been father figures on the third Sunday in June.
In Europe, Latin America, and other countries, fathers are honored on St. Joseph’s Day, a traditional Catholic holiday in March.
The National Retail Federation estimates that each year Americans will spend about $15.3 billion on dad, with the average person spending $133 on their fathers/father figures. According to current statistics, an estimated 86% of Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day compared to 77% expected to celebrate Father’s Day.
Did you know?
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have generated much controversy? There was resistance to the commercialization of both celebrations. Some men resented the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving. Proponents have argued against using both holidays as gimmicks to sell more products that were often paid for by the fathers or mothers themselves.
During the 1920s and 1930s, a movement started to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether in favor of a single holiday, Parents’ Day. Every year, pro-Parents’ Day groups rallied in New York City’s Central Park to remind everyone that both parents should be loved and respected equally.
The Great Depression derailed this effort to combine and de-commercialize the holidays. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods like neckties, hats, socks, pipes, tobacco, sporting goods, and greeting cards.
Here’s an idea: How about creating a lasting gift to honor our fathers and mothers. If you are on social media, start a campaign with your family and friends to donate whatever they can to your favorite charity. You might even consider making your donation to Unity Urban Ministerial School Alumni Association through Amazon Smile for example. Just a thought!