Why My Dad’s My Hero

The man’s got integrity

My father (middle) at one of his random acts of kindness. Image credit Times-Call, the story can be found here

When covid was becoming a global problem, my Dad and a family friend, Anand, set up a free aid station on my parents’ porch. It was filled with toilet paper, sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. They made the local paper:

Image Credit Times-Call

They took turns going to the store, waiting in line, buying essential items, and bringing them back to stick on the front porch under a sign that said “please take only what you need.”

My Dad is one of my heroes.

Now, the one thing that my Dad hates above all else is the feeling that his time has been or is being wasted by unnecessary bureaucracy. He’s become notorious in the school he teaches in for inching towards the door at the end of meetings, slashing through the meeting-extending small talk at the tail end by going “so… Is the meeting over? I can go now, right?”

I’ve brought this practice to the school I teach in now.

A few weeks ago, on a walk with my father, he told me that his pastor (whom I adore) offered him a position as a church elder/deacon. This pastor thought that my father's example he sets trying to help out in the community would bring new life to the current elders, who love “playing church.”

What does it mean to play church? It means sitting around on your ass arguing small points of biblical theology while other people suffer, and you do nothing. It means endless Bible studies with no action. The ultimate echo chamber.

My father told me on our walk that as soon as his Pastor offered him the deaconship, his heart rate spiked. AAAAH! Meetings! Bureaucracy! Ceremonies! Abort Mission! Run! He thought.

He turned down the position, telling the pastor: “Look, if you want me to organize some sort of community-benefiting activities for those guys to participate in, I’m your man. But I don’t think I can make an impact in that system as it is. Those meetings would cut into my community time.”

When he told me the story on our walk, he said to me “You know, I think helping people is my church.”

This is why my Dad’s my hero. He doesn’t like getting dressed up and singing the songs and dancing for the show, playing church with everyone else. He puts his body where his beliefs are. He reminds me of the Marcus Aurelius quote:

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

Now, I’m not traditionally religious, but I’m a big fan of Jesus. There’s plenty in the Bible that I don’t like, but Jesus? What a guy.

Do you know who Jesus spent most of his time telling us not to be like? Bureaucrats! People obsessed with rules. People so mired in theology they couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

If Heaven is really a place full of the old dudes in Bible study, sitting around talking and smugly patting themselves on the back about how right they were, I want no part of it. That sounds suspiciously like hell. If I may quote The Immortal Billy Joel:

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”

Real life is lived with the people of the world, not in an echo chamber ivory tower. Real service is hard, and gritty, and inconvenient, and looks nothing like a bunch of old dudes sitting in a room discussing theology.

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