a work in progress

striving for selflessness

Yesterday was Father’s Day in the U.S., yet the day came and went without recognition on this little blog. Instead of writing I spent the morning playing with my puppy (she woke me up just before 5:30), falling back asleep on the sofa, and then rushing around to get some housework accomplished before spending the day with my father and family. I cannot pass up this obvious opportunity, however, to highlight the number one man in my life (and in some roundabout way connect him to the overarching theme of this blog).

There are a lot of words I could use to describe my dad: devoted, hard-working, smart, kind, sincere…the list goes on. My favorite trait, however, is his selflessness.

It has taken me years to understand the extent of my father’s generosity, and I’m sure that I don’t have a complete picture of it today. Nevertheless, I have loved getting to know this side of him throughout the years, learning just how much time he spends assisting those around him. So many people look to him as a role model or a source of advice and support, but only a few of us are lucky enough to be among his top priorities.

The first thing I learned about my dad when I went to work for him more than three years ago is just how many responsibilities he has. Many people talk a lot about being busy, but it seems that few truly are. My dad, however, is an exception to that generalization, and not only has a never-ending to-do list but doesn’t talk about it or use it as an excuse. The thing that keeps him the busiest each day is not typically a business or a project, but rather us…his family. My father makes himself available to our needs, a courtesy he extends without expectation of thanks. He does it because he wants to make our lives a little easier. Sure, his own days would be easier if he wasn’t so damn dependable, but he continues to put the needs of others ahead of his own.

If my dad sees that one of us is calling he answers. If he’s in a meeting and can’t pick up the phone he texts right back, making sure everything is okay and seeing if a return call can wait until he’s available. I used to send him cover letters and job applications to look over before I submitted them, trusting he would return them within a couple of hours with helpful advice and insight. He’s always available for a chat, whether I need advice about what plumber to call or just want to catch-up. He asks about my day if he thinks it’s not going so well, has painted my toenails after surgery when I couldn’t bend over yet, and does whatever he can do to minimize my pain on any given day.

I often feel that pull towards doing for others that I imagine drives my dad, but more often than I’d like to admit I’m overwhelmed by my own physical discomfort to act on it. It’s in these moments that my desire to be selfless takes a backseat, and I either ignore or simply “can’t deal” with the issues of others. I feel in these moments that I have little, if anything, to offer.

The simple fact, however, is that while pain is not optional, suffering is. I can wallow in the perception that I have “a rough deal” rather than focusing on what is good, what I have to give, and how that can make a difference to someone else. I don’t want to be the type of person whose generosity depends on her mood or level of pain; I want to help others simply because it’s right. If my father’s selflessness waivered he wouldn’t be the reliable man he is today. I’d have to blog about something else, lie, or admit that my dad was great, but only when he wasn’t tired or busy. Wow…that sounds like a horrible post.

I hope that one day looking outside myself and doing for others is my instinct rather than something to which I strive. Until that happens I’m just going to keep trying to be more like my dad.

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