Friday, June 26, 2015

My Father's Child

I remember how the words stung. I was in my early 20s when a friend called my Grandmother a bigot. Stung like a smack in the face! At first I was offended! I wanted to defend her…but as I thought about it, I realized the word fit. "Prejudiced" was a kinder word which I, myself had used when referring to my Grandmother. But in the eyes of those who did not know and love her as I did, she could be seen as a bigot. I knew the reasons for her prejudice, though, yet I believed what I knew was true about her, that she was a good person.

Let me explain just a bit. Grandmother was orphaned at a very young age, subjected to the cruelties of life as an orphan in the early 1900’s. She endured a hard life that shaped her opinions and her self image. Later, as a young woman, she worked as a studio page at MGM Studios. She began building a new life- the kind many young women dream of even today. She shared an apartment in the Los Angeles area with a roommate, a Jewish woman whom she had met at work. Grandmother’s Hollywood heyday life might have looked glamorous, but working so close to the Hollywood scene opened her eyes to all kinds of seamy things. She witnessed well known stars, also Jews, who preyed on young women or young men in their dressing rooms. She witnessed studio moguls, again Jews, care more for their money making than the people with whom they worked. One day, she returned home from work to find that her roommate had moved out, taking EVERYTHING in the apartment with her, including the furniture that had been purchased by my grandmother. She was devastated, to say the least. For whatever reason, she could no longer distinguish between wrong actions and race. And so, her prejudice began. It was fueled, I’m sure, by the actions of many others. Yet, when I was with her, I only witnessed her kindness towards others. She was generous and thoughtful. Whatever she might have said about race or color, I saw her ACT a different way. My actions towards others were first influenced by an earthly Grandmother, but my understanding of infinite love and kindness and how to love others was deepened by my belief in my Heavenly Father. I came to understand that before anything else, I am my Father’s Child.

Strong and wise—captivating eyes, Magnificent being.
Spirit bright, emanating light Now hid from our seeing.
You forget who you are You, who outshone the stars.
Amazing smile
You are your Father’s child.

I know (as do you) that the wrong actions of one Jewish person does not make all Jewish people bad (pssst, I think Grandma understood that, too). There are many, many more good, honest and delightful Jewish people, some of whom I am blessed to count as dear friends, who are just as repulsed by wrong actions as you or I might be.

Fast forward several years, to when I announced that I was expecting my third child. Grandmother was alarmed, “Why would you bring more children into this awful world?”  she demanded. However rudely stated, I understood that grandma shared her opinion because she loved me, it didn’t make me mad at all. My response was evidence of that understanding, “Well, Grandma, I knew that you would still be here to love my children, so everything will be ok.” And there it was, the truth…we loved each other. She loved my children. That love bridged all the gaps in our beliefs.

I believe, then and now, that we are all children of Divine origin, Children of a Heavenly Father, and each has a spark of goodness inside us. I believe our Heavenly Father loves us all equally. Because I love Him, I want to be like him, to follow Him. I try so very hard to love others equally as He does. Now loving others does not mean I need to agree with their actions. In fact, the opposite can be true. My love for my two year old son does not mean that I let him run free, into the busy street to be squished by cars. I love him and because I do, I must say what I believe is right. His protests for freedom don’t change my love or my resolve to keep him safe. I believe running in the street isn’t good for you. You might disagree. I disagreed with Grandma’s assessment of having more children, but it didn’t make me love her less. Nor did my desire to have more children cause her to love me less (to the contrary, she loved all of my children immensely).

So now we are in a world where right and wrong are sometimes mixed up. Where good people understand things differently than other good people. Just as my grandmother understood her world differently than I did. The truth is, we are all good people! Whatever you believe doesn’t change my love and concern for you. Just because I disagree with you about something and say so doesn’t mean I don’t love and care about you. Hopefully I have learned to express my opinion more lovingly than my grandmother did, but if not remember that I still love you. That spark of goodness in each of us can still shine through. My grandmother shared her sometimes prejudiced opinions with me because she loved me. I still let her. On the occasions when I did not agree, I still knew that she loved me. Just as I will ALWAYS love you. Friends included!

I love the words of Thomas S. Monson, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” You, my dear family and friends, are much more important to me than the earthly policies and politics that surround us. We are bound by loving ties. Your actions will not change my love for you, you must know that. We must never let our ideas cause us to hate each other for if we become haters, if we become true bigots, we will not be able to see the real Truth before us. As has been so beautifully and perfectly modeled by the wonderful people in South Carolina, we must continue to love each other, even those who seek to hurt us, and continue to remember who really are, our Father’s Children.

Now there were none before or after like Him 
He was God with us and is God still
In life and death His love for us defined Him 
And to do His Father’s will
And so He came to save
Because you are your Father’s child.
(Your Fathers Child by Kenneth Cope)

Friday, June 19, 2015

O My Father

(If you think I wrote something similar a while back, I did here. This just shows that sometimes the feelings return and I have to talk myself through them again.)

Father's Day is coming. My widowed friend mentioned this was a hard day for her to attend church. Not that she wouldn't go, because partaking of the Lord's Sacrament and renewing sacred covenants is, after all, the reason we go to Church and is far too important to pass up. But that it's just hard, being widowed- the father of her children is not present on a day set aside to revere fathers. We discussed the difficulty our children might have on Father's Day as well. How many people feel lost on these occasions? It hurt to think that celebrating something wonderful and God-given, as fathers are, would be difficult for some of us.

I thought about the first Father's Day after my dad had passed away. There was much in my life to be happy about, yet the sadness was still there. My Dad was gone from this life and I missed knowing he was there, even while I heard others speak of their fathers and the things they had planned to do together. A few weeks later, I was invited to sing at a funeral. The man was much older than my father had been when he passed away. He'd had more opportunity than my own father or even my late husband to have a fatherly impact in this life. There were not only grandchildren in attendance, but great-grandchildren. He had been beloved by all, even those who disagreed with his faith. One grand-daughter said, "He was like another dad to me. If I was mad at my dad, I couldn't be mad at Grandpa."  I wondered, who are my second fathers? Surely I had them...but who were they? 

The words of the song were poignant:

"O My Father, thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence and again behold thy face?"
(Hymns, O My Father, 292, Eliza R. Snow)

On the surface, the words sound like a hymn for the fatherless, but they are not. The poet is referring to our Heavenly Father. One who is Father to all of us. 

"Our Father, by whose name all fatherhood is known,
Who dost in love proclaim each family thine own."
 (Hymns, Our Father By Whose Name, 296, F. Bland Tucker)

I thought about the many people in our lives who act as second fathers, even when we have good fathers present and active in our lives. I thought about my sons, how they love their children, but how they love their nieces and nephews also and how they can be like second fathers to them. All around me are good men who teach their sons to be good men. I can be thankful for that. 

I thought of my Heavenly Father, of the many blessings HE showers down on me. Regardless of our situation- whether we have living fathers or not, or if our fathers have been involved in our lives or not, or any other of myriad father situations, we all have a Father who loves us and is there for us. Just like earthly fathers, we can deny His existence, we can exclude Him from our lives or we can turn to him for everything. But unlike earthly fathers, He will never leave us, even when we turn from him. He is always there. 

I know there's the whole line of thinking that we should honor our fathers and mothers every day, so why make a fuss on one day? And there's good reason in that thought, but we DO make a fuss on one day. And we rob ourselves of a lot of happiness and good memories if we let our bitterness or grief over our earthly situation sideline us from such celebrations. Maybe it's my 'party girl' instinct, but on this Father's Day, I choose to jump in. I choose to celebrate good fathers of all kinds. I will celebrate my sons who are wonderful fathers and uncles. I choose to appreciate and thank good men everywhere who do father-like things for others. And, most of all, I can praise and worship my Heavenly Father, who made a glorious earth and placed His beautiful children on it. He made a Plan of Happiness where we can learn and grow and gain eternal blessings! And He loves and blesses me and my family every day. On this Father's Day, I choose to gather with good people at church where we raise our voices in praise to Him. 

"And now we'll sing great praise and rev'rently recall
The Holy One who gave his Son,
The Father of us all."
(Children's Songbook, Fathers, p.209, Dawn Hughes Ballantyne and Joyce Mills Jensen)