Father’s Day 2019
A little over a year ago our family was in Bakersfield to attend a dinner where my son, Casey, was awarded a college scholarship. The keynote speaker at the event, Michael McCoy, is a scholar with a Ph.D. More importantly, considering that today is Father’s Day, Dr. McCoy is a dad. During his outstanding speech, Dr. McCoy included what he titled: Mike’s Top Ten List. It was his life lessons and advice to the graduating seniors at the event but also a list which I felt was great for us older folks to hear and ponder as well. You can never be too old to make some additions to, or changes in your life which help you grow as a person.
This top 10 list is not the word of God--it is the word of Mike--but many of his suggestions contain principles rooted in scripture.
Here’s Dr. McCoy’s top ten list :
1. Always show up and show up on time.
2. Constantly challenge unhealthy habits.
3. Write thank you notes, postcards and send greeting cards.
4. Try really hard at everything you do or don’t do it.
5. Organize your clothes, your car, your tools and your money.
6. Be present. Limit your screen time.
7. Try to understand other people and be quick to forgive.
8. See the world. Have an active travel plan for your life.
9. Read books before you go to sleep at night.
10. Spend time outside and exercise everyday.
Friends, you don’t have to have a Ph.D. like Mike to come up with this list but I appreciate the wisdom it contains. Mike was very humble and said that the list did not come from a life perfectly lived—but from the wisdom that comes from looking back on the mistakes he had made and the lessons he had learned from them.
I’m sure most of you have a pearl of wisdom gained through your own triumphs and struggles in life that we could add to Dr. Mike’s list. One thing, I would add, is the wisdom from a quote by Henry James that I read stenciled on a hospital wall a couple years ago.
Henry James, a 19th CE American author, is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language. He was born in 1843 in New York City and died in 1916 in London, England. He was 72. Henry was the son of Henry James Sr. a banker and investor in New York and the brother of renowned philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James. I would add to Dr. McCoy’s list this brief yet poignant quote from Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Friends, the kindness which is rooted in the Spirit of God—is the kindness offered by a person who expects or desires nothing in return. It is the kindness Christ offered friends and strangers—even critics; a word or deed freely given to increase and enhance the hope, knowledge or joy of another. Never underestimate the impact a single act of kindness you offer can have on the peace and comfort and uplift of another.
In the book of Proverbs, a collection of writings that was used in large part by Jews to pass on their faith to the next generation we heard Don Jeung read a few minutes ago this simple yet profound statement: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
That statement is followed by this one so that it is crystal clear that the time if always ripe to do a good deed—to love your neighbor. Says the writer of Proverbs:
“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it—when you [have the ability to help them today.]
Friends, when we hear that call, found in the Hebrew book of Proverbs to offer simple deeds of kindness to others without hesitation, expectation, or pause—when we see it manifested in a person’s life today, it gives us hope that you don’t have to be a mean, arrogant, cut-throat person to be a success in life.That is such a shallow, cynical mindset.
Indeed, you can be a great success if kindness and generosity are, as my Grandpa Crouch use to say, “Your true north.”
Since its Father’s Day, let me share with you a story of just such a person that my mom and I enjoyed reading about together a couple weeks ago in Santa Rosa. 40 years ago this particular dad and I crossed paths up in Humboldt County, when we were just kids.
My high school football team nearly every year played a game in Ferndale, California, a little town famous for its Victorian storefronts and homes. Little did I know that while I, 17 or 18 years old, was on the football field playing against the beloved hometown Ferndale wildcats, a young man of 10 named Guy was on the sidelines selling pretzels out of his own cart. 42 years later that young man now calls Santa Rosa home and he recently got a star in his honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Yes, the pretzel cart was just the beginning of a career in the food business that would become successful beyond this young entrepreneur’s wildest dreams. That boy’s full name is Guy Fieri and some of you may be familiar with his television show called: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network. That hard-working, clever, boy with the pretzel cart now is an internationally known celebrity with over 73 restaurants of his own.
The reason I’m sharing this little anecdote about Guy Fieri is because of his uncommon humility and his legendary kindness. And his commitment to being the best Dad he can be.
During his speech upon receiving his star on the Walk of Fame Guy said: “Everyone that’s here, please recognize that in some shape and form, you had a part in this star happening…that’s our star, seriously, that’s our star.”
In regards to his kindness and generosity, a reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat Newspaper in a story about Guy receiving his star recently wrote: “Behind the scenes, Guy Fieri, has been a longtime philanthropist…most recently he was recognized for feeding first responders during the 2017 wildfires in Sonoma County… Fieri refused publicity for his volunteer work during the fires saying he didn’t want anything to get in the way of feeding the firefighters.”
“Last year he also visited Redding during a wildfire, and [the town of] Paradise, the site of the infamous Camp Fire, the most deadly and destructive in California history.
Said a Food Network executive last week: “With all Guy’s success he is still one of the nicest and most generous people I have ever known.”
Friends, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame the legacy of Guy Fieri’s kindness and generosity and humility will last forever to inspire his wife and two sons and his countless fans.
Now one does not have to create a billion dollar enterprise in order to carry out an act of kindness that lasts forever. Last month church member, Joe Biggs, sent me an email which contains photos of people reaching out to strangers under the heading: “Kindness lasts forever.”
As I share a few descriptions of the photos I saw and the captions that accompanied them please use your mind’s ability, your imagination, to picture them. In one photo a man on a beach in his 50’s dressed in a t-shirt and shorts is shown bending over to place his shoes at the feet of a young girl dressed in rags—her left arm is behind her and her right hand is on her forehead as if she is moved by the actions of the person bent over before her.
The caption under the photo reads: “The man who gave the shoes of his feet to this homeless girl.”
Kindness lasts forever.
Another photo shows a partially bald man in his 60’s dressed in shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes giving a haircut to a young man in his twenties on a sidewalk next to an old rusty parking meter. Several other young men stand around observing the action. Can you picture that—a barber, a rusty parking meter? The caption under the photo reads: “This barber, who offers haircuts for the price of a single hug.”
In another photo a young man in his twenties in a green business issued work shirt is crouched down tying the shoe of a man in his 80’s. The caption reads: “This store employee who gives extra service.”
In another photo, a person returns to find the following note placed on their car:
“You do not know me but I saw that you needed some tires for your truck and I wanted to do something nice for a stranger because one day a stranger did the same for me. The receipt [for the tires] is in the envelope and all you have to do is go by Warehouse tire on 3rd street and ask for Steven Hodges and they will put [the tires on your truck] for free. All I ask is that one day you do something nice for a complete stranger.”
Friends, I’ll never forget the photo of a large banner hanging in the window of a dry cleaners which says: “If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for free.”
And finally there is a photo of a man dressed in a 1st responder uniform shoveling snow on a long driveway. The caption with the photo says: “An elderly man in my neighborhood had a heart attack while shoveling his driveway. Paramedics took him to the hospital, then returned to finish shoveling his driveway for him.”
Kindness lasts forever. Friends, I have no doubt that every person here this morning no matter your age has carried out an act of kindness towards another person that will never be forgotten—and most, if not all of you, have been the recipient of such an eternal gift as well.
The example of my mom, Alice Crouch, the words of Holy Scripture, and most especially, the life of Jesus, have taught me that we are most human when we are kind.
Before I close this morning I must mention quickly that in our second lesson we heard the Apostle Paul challenge the members of the church at Colossae to dress for success.
We don’t have a dress code at this church by the sea--but Paul reminds us that there are some things we all need for our wardrobe if we are to be presentable at church and in the world.
Paul encourages the members of the Colossian church, as they put on their cloaks each day before they leave their homes, to also put on: “Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Paul’s words are for us as well. Thus Friends, people should say of you at church or on the street: “My, that kindness sure looks good on you!” Or, “Where did you find that compassion? It looks stunning!”
That’s what it means to dress for success in the Judeo Christian tradition. And while such spiritual garments are indeed priceless—they are available to all, rich and poor alike.
Sadly, such a look does not seem to be in fashion these days—many prefer to put on arrogance, not humility; and many Americans view kindness and compassion as hopelessly outdated.
How on earth did we come to think that putting on arrogance and greed would “make America great again”? Arrogance is not a biblical fashion statement for success.
How do we get our wardrobe updated with the look God prefers? How do we dress for success the way that Guy Fieri does today and in the way that Jesus did 2000 years ago?
It’s actually very simple. We do what the Apostle Paul suggests we do, saying to us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Do that, my friends, on a regular basis, and you too will manifest to others through your words and deeds, through your fashion sense, the truth that, indeed:
“Kindness lasts forever.”