Written By: Valerie L. Richter
“How much is the corn?”, said the pirate. The farmer said, “A buck-an-ear!”
These are the “corn”y jokes I heard growing up and still hear to this day. My Dad has a way of making everyone smile, chuckle (and groan) with his witty sense of humor!
You see, Dad was an elementary physical education teacher. He connected with kids by telling funny, punny jokes. They loved “Mr. Miller”! All year long, Dad would volunteer for recess duty. He organized games and fun competitions for the kids on the playground. But Dad had a special heart for the “underdogs”, the less popular kids who were picked on and often left out by their peers. He made recess fun and engaging because he knew the pain these kids felt.
Most of us go through times in our lives where others hurt us. It can be the pain of rejection, physical and emotional bullying, or simply neglect. When we are young, it hits us especially hard. My dad and I share this experience. When we were kids, we got picked on for our physical attributes and were often left out by our peers. No matter how nice we were to others, they still let us down. My dad taught me about the power of resilience, love and faith.
My Dad was the youngest of four and was the only boy. His parents loved him very much. His dad, my grandfather, worked many long and hard hours as a bridge tender in Milwaukee. Dad was also a faithful Christian, who attended and served in his church. However, when it came time to join Boy Scouts, my Dad was told he could not join because his father couldn’t be at the meetings because of work. The kids teased and taunted him. That was the beginning of feeling left out by not only his peers, but also adults in his community.
I had a similar experience. There was a group of girls in my grade school days that knew I was sensitive and cried when people were upset with me. One day they would decide to be my friends, and the next day, they ignored me. This went on for several years, and it became hard to trust people and develop true friendships. However, I was eventually blessed by two friends who remained true.
How did we get through it? There were no bullying laws back then. We were told to “deal with it” by society. But Dad taught me about resilience. When the kids were picking on him as a child, he discovered something about himself. He liked to run. It made him feel better and stronger. He was also mentored by a coach who saw the best in him. Dad went on to be the number one runner in college, the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin. Later, he was inducted into the UWM Hall of Fame.
It wasn’t only by strength and resilience alone that Dad overcame the bullying. He also had the encouragement of love. Besides loving parents, Dad developed friendships with two great men, my honorary uncles…Uncle Ron and Uncle Rick. He also met my mother, Chris. These people poured love, comradery and happiness into to my Dad’s life. They rejoiced in his accomplishments and stood by his side during the hurts of life. My parents have been married for 50 years now, and Dad still spends time with Uncle Ron and Uncle Rick. These relationships are amazing!
Most importantly, Dad taught me the ultimate importance of faith. God’s love, grace and power is enough to see us through this journey we call life. I saw Dad’s faith in action. Every year, he helped an elderly lady put up her Christmas decorations. He served in the Holy Name men’s ministry. Dad enlisted my brother and I to help him paint the light poles in the church parking lot. He called Bingo for church every Wednesday night, while I helped in the kitchen. Dad cut grass for our neighbors. He and Mom counseled a couple who’s marriage was in distress. He attended silent faith retreats with my grandfather. Dad generously gave us cars when we proved ourselves competent drivers. He brought flowers and candy for Mom when she had a bad day. To this day, Dad is still out there shoveling or snow-blowing the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. He does not do this for accolades…He has a faithful servant’s heart.
Perhaps one of the most impressionable times of my life was when the economy of the 1980’s went bad, and Dad was laid off from his teaching job. Dad is a doer, a hard-worker and a faithful provider. To say that he never sits still is an understatement! This was an especially hard time in his life.
What I saw him do, I will never forget. For days, he played and listened to praise and worship records on our old turntable stereo. The melodies and lyrics still resound in my mind. They were peaceful, God-honoring and prayerful. Dad drew strength from the Lord. Even though I didn’t understand the extent of what the family was going through (because we never felt lacking in any way), I understood that something powerful was happening.
I now realize it was God teaching Dad about trusting Him. Dad’s job was eventually reinstated and he went on to teach for many years. When he retired, his school proclaimed his retirement day, “Mr. Miller Day”. It was a beautiful display of appreciation for all my Dad represented in his teaching career.
Today, when my husband and I have hard times or are celebrating good times, we turn to God…always praising Him and trusting Him the same way Dad and Mom do. We learned that connecting to and serving in a church community is an action of compassion, servitude and faith…not for personal gain, but to honor God. We learned about God’s love, mercy and grace through the encouragement of loving relationships…just like Dad and Mom modeled for us.
I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to have the type of father/child relationship like I do. But know that there is a Father who loves you even more than we can imagine. God longs to have a relationship with you…so much so that He sent His son to teach us about His love. It’s a REAL relationship…one that can be had by reaching out to your heavenly Father, believing in the great sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, confessing your sins, and growing in a Christ-like life.
As for Dad and I, we see the blessings of this life. We love strongly, work hard and serve others in Jesus’ name. It is a blessing. Sometimes we need support and resources because life can be hard and exhausting. But as my Dad would say…..
“There’s a NAP for that!”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you so much! Thank you for raising me not only as your daughter, but also a daughter in Christ.