What Father’s Do

Dad’s take you higher

In Aaron’s post A Big Enough Story, that I linked to last week, he concludes by asking what sorts of things we can do as parents to push back horizons and expand the universe for our children. (It makes me so happy that the man I love is the kind of guy who works his butt off to give his kids a big huge story so that they will not be satisfied with pleasures too small.)

And catch you when you come down

And send you right back up again, higher than before.

That got me thinking about my dad. There is one thing my dad consistently did, and still does, my whole entire life that when I think about it as an adult is sort of awe inspiring.

Ever since I was a little girl I remember my dad giving people a place to stay. He built a little partition in the basement so that people he met who had nowhere to sleep for the night could have a semi private place to crash at our house.

Essentially he took in homeless people. Not everyone, but he was always ready to give someone a place to sleep if he thought it was safe.

Now, many might question the wisdom of that, and there was one occasion when it wasn’t the best outcome, but given the sheer numbers of people that he has taken care of over the years it’s quite remarkable.

My dad has a house right down town in the little town I grew up in, only 2 doors down from the latest open liquor store in town. When a big drunk native kid showed up on his doorstep one day trying to bum change for more beer my dad invited him back into the kitchen for a hamburger, which was really the only thing he knew how to cook back then. That kid stayed with my dad almost 8 years. He would try and move out and get on his feet, and things would go badly, and maybe he would start using drugs again, and dad would just take him back in, pick him up off of the metaphorical floor and help him start over again.

He would call me, all excited over how well one or other of the guys that came through his house were doing. He forgave, thousands, and thousands of dollars owed him in back rent by guys with gambling problems, he let so many come back and try again and come back again. He was basically a halfway house. Now the city calls him and guys who are just getting out of rehab, or jail and need a place to stay often go home with him.

He goes to jail every week to talk with the guys there and pray with them.

I mention this in the context of Aaron’s post because I distinctly remember an occasion when I was 20 that really bothered me. I was at a “church school” thing. Everyone there had been learning all this stuff about caring about the things that God cares about, catch phrases like “radical love for the disenfranchised” were floating around, and these people were supposed to be figuring out ways to genuinely live out their faith, a faith that has as one of it’s basic tenants, care for the poor.

There was this street kid named Pasqual that I had gotten to be friends with. We had invited him to come hang out with us at the motel where we all stayed for this course. He came on his birthday, bought shampoo for lice, which must have cost a lot of his resources, so he wouldn’t infect anyone. I let him have a shower in my room and then asked the 2 guys who didn’t have a full room if he could crash on their couch for the night. ( was sharing a room with 2 other girls or I would have gladly let him crash on my bed and taken the floor or couch.

That sparked an administrative incident with everyone freaking out about what they should do. The 2 guys I had asked, one from the UK and one from Japan, were extremely uncomfortable, everyone conferences in hushed tones to figure out what to do. In the end they decided to take this boy to a dumpster behind the church and set hi up with some cardboard boxes, in spite of the other person who had offered to pay for a seperate room for him for the night. I was heartbroken, I cried all night. He, predictably, wanted nothing to do with us after that. We invited him to be there, and then freaked out at the idea of giving him space on a fold out couch, that no one was using, because they were afraid.

When I was talking to the kid who I had first asked later he was defensive and asked, “Well, you were asking me to do something that you wouldn’t have done. I mean, it wasn’t quite fair to ask me to do that. You weren’t going to do that.”

To which I was able to respond quite truthfully, “If the rest of you hadn’t been here Pasqual would have had a place to sleep tonight that wasn’t a cardboard box. I grew up giving people like him a place to stay in my home. That’s just what you do when you see someone in need. I mean, we’re Christians right? The only reason I didn’t invite him to stay in my room was because I knew the 2 other girls staying with me would have freaked out about sleeping with a strange guy there. My request to you was something I grew up thinking of as completely normal and reasonable to ask of someone.”

I realize now that I got that from my dad. Whatever his faults, my dad lives what he believes. He believes that he should give someone a place to stay if they need it, so he does. He believes it’s better to err on the side of generosity and believing the best than to never, ever be stolen from. And he may be right.

This is one way I can say concretely that my dad gave me a bigger universe to live in, expanded the story for me of life past just taking care of myself and my own.

And I’m thankful for it, and thankful to be married to a man who does the same for his children, by caring for others in need.

Thanks Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

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