How Can a Father Find His Way? Faith

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photo credit: “Ca valait vraiment les années lumières de déplacement” via photopin (license)


I’d found a grocery bag in the bottom shelf of a shopping cart. That cart sat in the cart corral of a Harris-Teeter store, after dusk, with no one around. No one, that is, except for my baby. Elise sat in the front of our cart. It was just us two on a quick grocery run.

I scanned the lot, half hoping someone would step up to claim the groceries, half hoping no one would.

Fatherhood – parenthood – changes us. From within.

It’s a metamorphosis that takes a man in and transforms him to dad. Some come from instinct and history and nature. Some draw strength from character – or loses the same to it. It’s hope and expectation that turns over time to understanding and recognition.

It’s the realization that what we do holds much more influence than what we say.

Virtue and example

Show me, dad. Teach me, mom. By virtue and example.

Kids watch our speedometers and hear our words. They consider our actions more than they process what we say. Show me, dad. Teach me, mom. By virtue and example. They’re underfoot, for triumphs and defeat, to mimic reaction and reason actions.

They’re concessions we make when we make plans to make a family.

My dad sold his billiards table to make room for my room. Men trade in two-seaters for min-vans. They spend less time at the poker table, more time at the changing table. It’s less about hanging with the boys, more about caring for their boy. Or girl.

Suddenly, your personal integrity becomes a child’s how-to video.

I opened the sack. Deodorant. Candy. A six-pack of Diet Mountain Dew! Perfect for those late nights editing at the Asheville Citizen-Times – especially coming home to a night-owl toddler. Speaking of that toddler … she sat in the cart, barely a year old.

When you know you’ve done the right thing, that’s enough reward.

She’d have no idea

Not that a reward matters. It’s kind of our job, isn’t it?

She’d have no idea what dad decided. “C’ mon, lovey,” I said, placing the bag in the cart. “Someone’s going to be sleepy and stinky if they don’t get this bag back.” When you know you’ve done the right thing, that’s a reward.

Not that a reward matters.

It’s kind of our job, isn’t it? Probably those subtle instances the universe gives you a choice, it’s for practice. It’s a gut-check. What are you made of when no one’s keeping score? When you have faith that it matters, somewhere, some how?


# # #

This post is part of Wednesday Word, a weekly feature on Deb Runs. The word of the day: Faithful. I took the prompt from writing prompts Cheryl Strayed suggested when asked for assignment ideas for students who read Wild: Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.

faithful quote

Deb Runs


  1. I once left a full grocery bag worth £30 on the end of my shopping trolley. Getting home and unpacking was when I realised.
    I can’t afford to ‘lose’ £30! Therefore I was soooo grateful that when I rang the store, with not much hope, someone had truthfully handed the bag in.
    Kids are so impressionable that it matters not their age… A good example is a good example!
    Great post!

    1. I even thought that the store would probably replace the items if that person came back for them, but that didn’t make it any less wrong to take them. Which is strange – I will take a fallen road sign without a second thought. Hmm.

      When you get something like that back, it restores a faith in humanity, doesn’t it Ritu?

      Glad you liked the post. Glad fatherhood has changed me.

      1. Absolutely Eli!
        I will have to remind myself a lot over the next two weeks… Holidays have started and the kids are at that fight like cat and dog stage!!!

  2. Good job, Dad! I’m giving you a little long-distance cheer and high five. You started me thinking… it seems that we all have a responsibility to be models of the values we would like to teach children. We don’t necessarily have to be parents. As you wrote about, other people are constantly noticing our subtle reactions and behaviors. Today, I’m going to try to go out into the world once more and try hard to live out my values to their extreme… Thank you for giving me the motivation and courage to try again!

    1. Thanks, Lulu. High five accepted. I know as coach to U9s, it’s important what I do over there, too.

      One kid repeated verbatim a conversation I had with our referee on Saturday – I was grateful any pointed words came from him, not me.

      I want to know how your day went today.

      1. Honestly, it was pretty challenging! It is hard for me to even remain mindful and aware of how I want to be living my life once the workday gets underway. Distractions come up, I get busy, and I relapse right back into the same tired patterns. Your post helped, though! I thought, “How am I going to leave the world a better place than I found it today?” I stopped on the way home from work and picked up a little, potted flower for each of the ladies in the leasing office at my apartment, because one of them looked like she was having a really tough day yesterday. Apparently, they’ve been swamped at work, and I think it was a bright spot in their day, which made it a bright spot in my day.

      2. I love that! Promise me you’ll write a post about it? Maybe even as a guest post for me?

        I really need to get back to your page, incidentally.

      3. It just so happens that I was working on a piece about it, and I was planning to give you a shout out in it. I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to finish it up, but it’s almost done. Thanks for the inspiration! I hope you have a lovely Easter!

    1. Thanks Sonia – yeah, I wonder if there was also a box of animal crackers if I’d have had the same resolve!

      You’re right though – we can’t expect a kid to do what we say and not emulate what we do.

  3. Aw, you are seriously an awesome dad and do think your girls already know how lucky they are to have you, but still tell them from me that they are indeed so very lucky indeed with a dad like you 🙂

  4. This is great insight on the internal rewiring of a man becoming a father. It’s kind of like a dam exploding, with a rush of care, love, responsibility, decisiveness and sacrifice that a man – perhaps – didn’t know he was capable of feeling. It really is an overwhelming transformation when a newborn triggers that explosion.

  5. I’d like to think that I act the way I’d want someone else to act if the situation were reversed. But then there are some times when I’m not me, and I react. Great story Eli.

  6. My son found something valuable. I told him we had to turn it in. He understood. He did so willingly…mostly. 😉 A couple of weeks later, he lost his new Kindle Fire in a hotel lobby. Someone turned it in. He understood in full, that day, the importance of doing the right thing, and how it affects other folks. 🙂

    1. That’s awesome. What a lesson. And it’s true, sometimes, it’s not easy to do the right thing.

      And sometimes, the universe will turn it around and show us why we should.

  7. I’ve taught my kids that we should pray whenever we hear sirens going past. It used to be me that reminded them, but not too long ago, as we were leaving church one evening, we heard sirens and my 8YO son stopped us and led a prayer right there on the sidewalk. I had a hard time seeing to get to the car after that.

    1. Great time for a prayer, Rabia. I think of one when I see the hospital helicopter in the sky.

      What a moment for your son … and for you. Kind of tells us we’re not doing so badly, doesn’t it?

  8. And that, is exactly why your daughters have turned out so well… You’re a great dad, Eli! We should all follow those words of Confucius.

    Thanks for joining Wednesday Word this week. It was an honor to have you linkup.

    1. I can’t agree with that, Deb, but I sure do try to do no harm and let these girls blossom. Confucius felt like the perfect fit for a quote that day, too.

      I can’t wait to delve into the other posts in the linkup. So glad to be part of it.

  9. Honesty and compassion are, I think, two of the most important virtues for our kids to learn, and the best way is not to teach them, but show them. When you see your kids do similar things, you can feel justifiably proud of them and of yourself for being a good role model. In many ways, it also shows your kids they can truly trust you to always be honest with them.

    1. It takes an honest and compassionate life, and although I fail at those at times, it’s always on my mind and I do my best, Lyn. I just don’t want to get in the way of their own virtuous development. I hope my girls will always feel they can trust me. Time will tell.

  10. We are our kids window to the world from day one. There have been times when I have expressed to my own, because I may have slipped, “do as I say, not as I do” because look how that worked for me and we all laugh thankfully. Nothing more embarrassing then slipping faithfully in front of my kids.

  11. I was visiting my friend in another city once and while out for a morning jog, found $700 in a money clip. I looked around – no one around. I had no real idea where I was in the city – I just knew to keep the mountains in view to find my way back. So back I went and told her mom I needed to call the police about this money. Or call the radio station (who thought I was completely insane and said No thank you every single person will be calling claiming it is theirs!) The police came by – plain old money clip basic steel, nothing to distinguish it. No I didn’t know what street I was on at the time. They told me to keep it for a few days, if no one called – Congrats! I honestly tried to figure out how to determine who it belonged to. I was racked with guilt. I am so not designed to be rich I guess.
    I was there 2 weeks and they never got back to me. We had a great dinner out with my friend’s family, I donated to her Doctor moms’ hospital charity, and bought a wicked pair of cowboy boots.
    And some days, when there is a slight fog low to the ground, I still look over my shoulder wondering if some drug lord is gonna find me “I want my money back punk.” !!!

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