Last week I reached out to many of you and asked you to help me with a project. I asked you to give me some one-word verbs that describe what good dads do. I knew I would get some great answers; that's why I asked. What I didn't expect were some of the great comments, including one incredible story.
A few days ago I shared a story about Juan Martinez and how he has inspired me. During my most recent opportunity to listen to Juan, he stressed the idea that we all have stories. By sharing them, he said, we all have the capacity to change lives. As he shared this, my mind drifted back to just a couple of hours earlier to a story a good friend shared with me as part of his responses to my "what do good dads do" inquiry.
His responses were as follows:
1.) Disciple them
2.) "Foxy stories"
3.) Cry with
Now, numbers 1 and 3 seemed pretty straight forward. But I couldn't help but wonder what he meant by "Foxy stories". With this friend the possibilities were wild and endless, for he's always had a rather unique sense of humor. That's why I couldn't have been more grateful he used the comment section to explain:
I should explain #2, "Foxy Stories." At first I wrote "entertain them." Even as a kid I suppose I was an entertainer. So for me this kinda just came natural (and maybe that is the key- be yourself!). When my second son was born we were given a stuffed animal, a fox, for him. I suppose at first Foxy just sat with Micah in his crib but early on I began to "talk him." Sort of like a puppet I suppose. Foxy had a slight lisp and a "larger than life" sort of personality. He was always going on adventures and getting in trouble for doing things he shouldn't. He had an attitude. When our children were young they always begged for Foxy stories. So off the top of my head I would tell an elaborate tale that often included other stuffed animals or make-believe villains like evil, but stupid, Farmer Fred. Each story was new and fresh. The telling was often at night and included events from my childrens' day. Occasionally there was a moral to the story but most of the time it was strictly for entertainment. My only regret was that I never recorded or wrote any of these down. I remember sometimes while wrapping up a 45 minute story, I would get chills because of the way God allowed the story to all come together in the end. Foxy was also always there to cheer them up when they got hurt or sick. He was what made our many long car trips bearable. He was also someone they could take there frustrations out on with a good punch or a throw across the room. I would guess that up until our kids turned 10 they had heard more words come from my mouth in Foxy's voice than in the voice of their dad. I suppose Foxy may have been at times therapeutic for them, but he was often therapeutic for me. Even now at times when this old dad is all alone and thinking of his son who literally lives on the other side of the planet, I just say a few sentences in that lispy, attitude driven Foxy voice, and let the tears flow.
Wow. When I finished reading this in a McDonald's restaurant my own tears weren't flowing, but they crawled to the edge of my eyes and took an extended peek overboard. There were so many things about this story that moved me.
First and foremost, there is something incredibly humbling and special one feels when a friend, and maybe sometimes not even a friend, takes time to share a story with you you know is dear to them. It's like being handed an old family treasure that makes you feel like you've been all but adopted into a family other than your own.
Second, I was reminded of the blessings I have in so many friends who have been there - done that when it comes to raising young kids. The advice I receive from them is immeasurably valuable. Inspirational. I, too, enjoy being our boys' entertainer, but to have a friend and his 20+ years of experience validate the importance of that - in his Foxy voice no less, instantly transforms a comment section into volumes on what a good dad does.
Finally, as he shared his touching confession that even today old Foxy occasionally comes out in "a few sentences in that lispy, attitude driven" voice, there was no doubt in my mind his children still hear it. I was reminded that my days are not unlimited to build memories into our children, to create voices and teach lessons. Every moment I have with them is one to not only savor, but to accept the challenge to build from an otherwise raw and meaningless second - a lifelong memory.
My friend Mike gave me permission to share his story under the condition I didn't try to make him sound "too good". Mike is always quick to point out that any goodness in him comes through our heavenly Father. Trust me Mike, I know you too well to begin to have the words to make you sound "too good". But I love you anyways my friend.
You did leave me wondering, though. What if we all started sharing our "Foxy" stories. Some days, more than others lately, I get exhausted hearing people talk about what they believe, and worse yet, what they believe about what other people believe. I want to hear more stories. Telling me what you believe about anything adds exactly zero value to my life. Sharing with me that God somehow weaved together the ramblings of a dad and his kids' stuffed fox "Foxy" into a security blanket of stories an entire family would cling to forever - wow. Please don't stop. I'm ready for the next chapter.
Juan Martinez is right. We all have stories. Not everyone will enjoy them. More people will than you think, I bet. But who cares, because someone out there NEEDS to hear your story, which makes it worth telling.