What my daughter taught me


middle_age_crazyAt the end of the Sunday service, my daughter Robyn and I got a standing ovation.

In my student ministry days, I never received that kind of reception. Indeed, I felt lucky if a few people at the door told me they liked the sermon.

Frankly, I didn’t recall when I agreed to be part of Sunday’s service. But I was happy to join Robyn for this early summer event.

At the door after the service, both of us got lots of compliments. One thing that helped was that Robyn and I are at no loss for public speaking experience.

She’s not only been a Spanish teacher for years. At our Unitarian Universalist congregation, she serves as a worship leader. She’s been doing this for some months, I recall.

But the real story wasn’t whether we ran a terrific Sunday service. The real story is that father and daughter got together to plan and conduct the service together.

I suppose our family is like many. Once the children are grown and have their own children, once those children have gone to college and now hold responsible jobs, you don’t see much of one another.

Family members go their separate ways.

Sure, you get together for birthdays and holidays. You get a phone call every once in a while. In fact, my son John just called to chat this afternoon. But I hadn’t heard from him in a week or so, even though we live in the same city.

John and I even have some of the same interests, such as advocacy for the mentally ill and the trials and tribulations of the Cincinnati Reds. (Both of my kids were born in the Cincinnati area.)

These days, we do see more of my wife Toni’s sister Patti and her granddaughter Mayzi, the five-year old she has custody of. Recently, they moved into our neighborhood on Fort Wayne’s south side.

But you have to make an effort to stay in contact with family
members. For my wife Toni and me, it helps that most of the family on both sides attend our Unitarian congregation. This year, Toni serves as the congregational president.

I love it that family members now live close enough to our home that they might just drop by for coffee and a catch-up chat. You want to know one appeal of small towns? That’s it. You see a lot more of your neighbors than if you live in the city.

In one of my favorite movies, “Middle Age Crazy,” Bruce Dern’s character complains of all the strings that govern his life. But toward the end, after an unhappy affair fizzles, he realizes, “If there ain’t no strings, there ain’t no people.”

That’s family. That’s what family does for you. They connect you. They help make your life really count.

That’s why when a daughter invites you to take part in a church service with her, you don’t mumble around and try to think of excuses to take a pass. Sure, you say. “What’s that date again, Honey?”

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