A year ago, I started reading one of the Chicken Soup Books. And since then I have been a big fan. I love all the inspirational stories about counting your blessings and having a positive attitude. I would recommend these books to anyone because we could all use a good uplifting story every now and then. The stories are told by people of different races, gender, ages, and stages of life, so there is something for everyone to relate to. The particular story that hit me with its message was Riding Tandem, a metaphor about the strength of a father's love.
A father and a son went out to take part in the Vietnam Challenge – a sixteen-day, twelve-hundred-mile bike ride. The son was blind, so he and his father rode on a tandem bike. They rode in the same outfits and were therefore ultimately linked together tightly on that bike for those sixteen days. During those sixteen days the son learned much about his father – a rather private man whom he didn’t really know. He learned of his dedication to his country, of his service in Vietnam, his optimism, his faith in country and so forth. The highlight of the story was the father and son’s trek to the point of the most grueling part of the ride; the Hai Van Pass, which was a mountain pass of over 3200 feet out of the coastal plains below. It was a physically demanding stretch that required the father and son to work together as a team. Well, as the story continues the son comes to this realization; “In the past, it had always been my father putting his hand on my shoulder. … On the back of our tandem bike, facing the steepest section of the Hai Van Pass, this would be my chance to do something for him. I wanted my legs to be the force that would power our small team up the steep switchbacks to the top. We’ll go as slow as you want, but we won’t stop, the son commanded. But hearing his father’s heaving breaths he backed off. We can stop if you want he told his father and he continued pedaling. They, as a team, were getting close to the top and as they neared it the father kept telling the son how far they were – another half mile, then only a hundred yards. The son maintained the rhythm of his pedaling, hoping to have the strength to bring them to the top of the pass and over. As they neared the top the bike toppled over; the son got up quickly and went right over to his father, who was a little dizzy. They walked the bike the rest of the way to the top as the crowd of people, who had gathered, cheered them on. When they reached the top the father said “I have lived through a war, I watched my son go blind. I saw my wife die in a car accident. Some people think I’m unfeeling. But what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to act? Should I have given up? Should I have quit? Life is too precious, and all I can do is live it.”
Fatherhood cannot be proven with a blood test, nor does it consist of simply providing a paycheck. It cannot be reduced to a single dimension. It involves commitment, self-sacrifice, integrity, and unconditional love. It is for them that I dedicate this post.
Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful and responsible fathers in the world.