Undying Loyalty

Dear son,

It’s been five weeks since I last wrote you a letter. I’m sorry! I know I have no excuse. The world is spinning too fast, and a lot of things have already happened in the past month — both to you and to me. I like to congratulate you for finding a new job that is exactly aligned with your talents, hobby, and passion. That’s great! That job will never bore you.

In the mean time, I want you to cry. No, not that I really want you to cry. Actually, what I want is for you to watch the 2009 movie, “Hachiko — A Dog’s Tale.” For surely you will cry. I did when I watched it. Hachiko is a remarkable story of undying loyalty — one that is extremely rare to find among humans.

Dogs are incredibly loyal creatures. Once you create a bond with them, they will never break it. And if you do break that bond, they will remain your friend and keep their loyalty intact. Their body dies first before their loyalty. I learned it when I was five years old.

Forty Years Ago

We had a big dog named Boojie. It was my father’s personal pet, companion, protector, and friend when he was still in the army. We were in an area where rebels constantly battled with the army. So my father trained Boojie to protect not only him but also us: me, my mom, and my little sister, because he was always away — in the battle front line.

Boojie was an intelligent guard dog. I remember how amazed I was to see it following commands from my dad. When my dad tapped a table twice, Boojie would jump over that table. It would sit when my dad said so. And when my dad made a gesture to attack someone, Boogie would surely attack that someone.

One common experience among soldiers in the 70’s, was the reassignment of duties. One day, my dad surprised us that he was just reassigned back to the country’s main island, more than one thousand three hundred kilometers away from where we were at that time. And we had to move immediately. Since the only two options to travel was by plane or by ship, and dogs have their own fare, not to mention the clearances required to process to transport them, my father’s initial decision was to leave the dog. So we left Boojie alone.

pexels-photo-248273.jpegBut Boojie didn’t agree with the decision. He followed us as we travelled to the city from that remote mountainous area. My dad was tough. And I knew, he was trying to be tough that time as he was driving the old rugged car looking at the side and rear mirrors from time to time to check whether Boojie had given up following us.

Boojie steadfastly followed us for more than two hours, running in full speed in that very long and very rough road going to the city proper. It was my father who gave up. His toughness was no match to Boojie’s persistence; his strong heart was weaker than his dog’s loyalty.

He stopped the car and let Boojie come in. When I noticed its tongue to be unusually longer, I asked mom why. “Boojies has been running for two hours and he never stopped even though he’s very tired. He wants to come with us.” she answered me. My short 5-year-old arms weren’t enough as I embraced Boojie until we reached the dock.

In short, Boojie traveled with us in the ship back to the country’s capital.

Upon arrival, we went straight to my mom’s parents house and settled there for a couple of days. Then we traveled to my dad’s home to another province just to visit them. When we came back to my mom’s home four days later, Boojie was dead. My grandma told us that, “He won’t eat anything. I think he was so lonely. No matter what we did, he just kept on ignoring us. Maybe he thought you left him here. He just died yesterday.”

Almost forty years have passed, and I still remember the emotion that succumbed us all that moment. My mom cried. I did too.

The Why

Remember the first time I took you from your mom, to live with me? You were still in your fifth grade. When we arrived in your would be “new home,” I embraced you and said, “I missed you son!”

Then unexpectedly, you asked me a very innocent question, “What is ‘miss’ papa?” Apparently your young mind was not yet familiar with the concept of “missing a person.” I thought maybe because you haven’t experienced yet to have a bond with someone. I was  physically away from you, your mom was physically present but wasn’t caring enough for you. Maybe you didn’t know how it felt to be endeared by someone.

So I began a series of projects. First I bonded with you by being a friend more than a father at the time. Then I gradually gave you home duties that are solely yours so you would learn how to be responsible to what was expected of you. Years later, I taught you to grow plants and take care of them. Then finally, I inspired you to grow animals. First, the hamster, then the pigeons, then finally the dogs.

Before you went back to your mother, I noticed you have already learned how to bond with your beautiful dogs and cats. That’s a great thing son. That’s wonderful!

All those years, what I really taught you was the power of friendship. Because true friendship will always breed loyalty — the one thing that is so rare in our modern time, the one Hachiko demonstrated in the movie, the one Boojie taught me forty years ago.

Loyalty is so rare now, perhaps because people have forgotten how to become a good friend, a true friend, a trustworthy friend. They forgot that loyalty grows from true friendship alone.

My son, you are now becoming a father. It is no joke. You are not just growing a plant or a dog or a cat anymore. You will be growing another human being — another person just like you and me, with own body, heart, mind, and spirit. You will be growing someone who will be your legacy, and yet free to choose his own path. The one great way to do that is by being his dad — a father and friend rolled into one.

Now go, take a rest, and watch the movie. Learn as much as you can. Enjoy it!

I love you always son!

God bless you!

Papa

Fatherhood: Response-ability

Dear son,

My last letter to you was about fatherhood’s two faces: responsibility and opportunity to grow. I told you that responsibility is about the ability to respond to what’s expected of you. And then you asked me how in the world are you going to meet the super high, unbelievable, and most of the time, unreasonable expectations of people around you who claim to be your family but actually don’t care for you and Hannah, and your incoming baby.

Fatherhood Images
Two Images of Fatherhood

Well, my quick answer is a resounding NO! You don’t have to meet their unreasonable uncaring expectations at all. But that would be another topic to discuss. Just ignore them for now.

What I was talking about was God’s expectations from all fathers. Now that you are going to be a father, you need to be aware of these things. Because after reading this letter, you will jump from theory to practice.

Let’s begin…

Father’s have many responsibilities. We will not talk about all of them; instead, we’ll focus on just four basic duties expected of a father.

  1. Protection — You are expected to protect your family from all kinds of harm. In order to do that, you need to assess your environment. Are they safe from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm?
    • physical harm is easy — is your house safe from diseases, thieves, physical pains, and unnecessary accidents due to poor household arrangements? Check it out. Do a general cleaning if necessary
    • emotional harm — how close is your family (you and Hannah) from people who constantly criticise, condemn, insult, and belittle other people including you and Hannah? If in case you are living among them, how do you prevent or at least neutralize those emotional harm that may cause your family unecesasry emotional pain? Figure it out. But don’t engage in war!
    • mental harm — attitude is very crucial to success, but it has two characteristics that may cause you problem: first, it is very contagious, second it is difficult to change. Now if you are surrounded by people with very negative attitude, how do you secure your family from being infected? Because remember, once you and your family is infected by the negativity of those around you, it would be very difficult to change and go back to your original mental state.
    • spiritual harm — attitude are just outward manifestation of an inner belief. If the people around you do not believe in God or do not believe that there are universal, timeless principles that govern us all, that may pose problems. If they believe that they can control the universe, and that they can control you, that would be dangerous. If your surrounding dont believe in the virtues I taught you — virtues like honesty, discipline, forgiveness, patience, faith — that may create conflict. But if their belief is far different from ours, DON’T ENGAGE IN ARGUMENTS. That won’t help at all. Arguments dont convince people, behavior does. 😉
  2. Provision — Again, as humans, we have four dimensions: body, mind, heart, spirit. Those four dimensions have different needs:
    • the body needs food, clothing, and shelter; the mind needs to learn and satisfy its curiosity; the heart needs love and acceptance, and the opportunity to love in return; the spirit needs meaning that comes from a higher being (in our belief system, it’s God, not money), and the priveledge to serve other people.
    • Now, as a father-to-be, you need to start thinking how are you going to provide those things directly or inderectly.
      • Food, clothing, and a decent shelter is the easiest part — but this one requires money.
      • Mind comes next. Providing education requires financial sources too. But teaching your son the right attitude, doesn’t require money. And that’s even more important than any bachelor degrees, MS, and PHDs this world can to offer.
      • Many fail in the “heart” part (have you ever heard of fathers who cant forgive their sons or daughters? They failed in the heart part of providing for the family) Let’s continue this in number three below.
      • The “spiritual” dimension is probably the greatest dillema in our society now. Very very few fathers provide spiritual guidance to their children — the world has become too busy, that its fathers choose to prioritize money and status above all else. When I was younger, I also made that mistake to you. I prioritized “everything else” in my life, and forgotten what is expected of me as a father. Now I’m catching up. I hope I can.
  3. Love, Encouragement, and Forgiveness — All these three have already become Where Elsevery very rare now in our modern dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest, “matira-matibay” society. But these three are essential. If your own family cannot find these three in your own home, where else can they find them? Nobody offers them anymore for free! Well, of course there are few exceptions out there. But when I say it’s “very very rare” its really very very rare. I seee people everyday whose parents cannot offer them love, encouragements, and forgiveness, so these poor people demand those essentials from false friends, strangers, drugs, and alcohol. The result? Chaos! Pain! Regret!
  4. Belief Foundation — Did you know that our first image of God comes from our first image of our earthly father? Yes. That’s why when you told me few years ago about your doubt on God’s existence, it almost crashed me. Because I knew, that I failed on this part of my responsibility as a father: I was not able to provide you a clear image of God. First, we fathers, do that by setting examples, by our behaviors, by the choices we make; second, we reinforce those behaviors with words of explanation. If we fail on our examples, no amount of explanation will compensate.
    • So prepare yourself on how are you going to give David the best image of the invisible God.
    • Another things is your overall belief system. In my 13 years of working with “so called leaders” I observed that most of them don’t have an intact belief system. They don’t know whether or not to believe that integrity is an imperative in leadership. Because of that, they compromise everytime, they are not consistent in their decision-making, and because they dont know what they believe, they don’t know how to respond to difficult situations. The result? People stop trusting them! As a father, one of your responsibilities is to establish that belief system in your family that is intact — a belief system that cannot be esily shattered by arguments, and cannot be swayed by painful experiences.

Example Failure

There are many more responsibilities waitng for you as a father. We haven’t talked yet about discipline and specific instructions and training, and about how to treat your wife. We’ll get there later. For now, I want you to begin thinking about these four basic expectations you need to meet. If you have noticed, I began from the easiest (protection) part, to the most difficult one (belief foundation) to make it easier for you to apply them. The last two responsibilites are just an expansion of the “heart” and “spirit” issues in both the protection and provision responsibilities.

I pray that you find this helpful. May God bless you and comfort you, and give you streght as you put these teaching into specific observable actions.

I love you always son!

 

Pa

Two Images of Fatherhood

Dear son,

How are you? How’s my father-to-be son? How’s the excitement? How are you preparing for your new role?

Yes, you’re going to have an additional role in your life — a role that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Are you ready for the change? You can be. You must be. This role is a very important role. In fact, it is the most important role that you will ever have in your life. Try to stop reading for awhile, and think about what I just said. Can you imagine the implications of being a father — its implications in your own life, in Hannah’s life, in your incoming son’s life, in your mom and your brothers, in me, in your grandma, your aunts and uncles, in your community? Just pause and think about it for a minute. What does it imply, to be a father?

So, what pictures did your mind see?

Maybe you have seen a lot of beautiful images in your inner eyes. That’s great! Now, let us talk about just two of those images: Responsibility and Opportunity

Fatherhood

Being a father is a great responsibility; you already know that. It is not just a title, or a name tag we use to call those men who have made some women pregnant. When you become a father, there are things that will be expected of you. And there are things that you will be accountable for.

What does it mean by being responsible?

Stephen Covey simplified the word by dividing it into its parts: response-able. Meaning, a responsible person is someone who is able to respond appropriately. But to respond to what? To what is expected of you. Different responsibilities have different expectations to fulfill. If you’re an engineer in charge of maintaining the smooth operation of a certain machine, you are expected to respond to circumstances that will affect the smooth operation of the machine. Now, if you are a father, you are expected to respond to some situations that arise in raising a child.

Being a father is a great opportunity too. That, you may not know yet. It is a great opportunity to grow as a person, as a husband, as a son, as responsible citizen. It is an opportunity to gain wisdom. If you are open to learning, and positive change, being a father is a great hands-on, live, actual practice. Being a father is an opportunity to become stronger in your four dimensions: body, mind, heart, and spirit. It is also an opportunity to leave a legacy — something positive that will remain in this world after you’re gone.

Now, these two gifts to all fathers —responsibility and opportunity— have distinct characteristics: responsibility is like a COMMAND. You cannot ignore it without painful consequences. Opportunity, on the other hand, is an OPTION. It’s up to you if you want to discover a fulfilling life, grow to your maximum potential, and leave a positive legacy behind; or just go with the flow of meaninglessness like a dead fish in a river and live a mediocre life.

Now, I hope you ponder more on this insights. It will help you establish a meaningful way of understanding your incoming new role. It will be your foundation. In my next letter, I will talk about a more concrete matters, specifically, about the responsibilities of a father.

Thank you for your time. Take care of yourself, take care of Hannah… and of course of the baby inside her belly.

God bless you all!

Pa