I’ve been given a lot of Father’s Day gifts over the years. I’ve gotten shoes, books, a basketball, shirts, and pictures. When I was in eighth grade, I got a phone for my room. This might sound strange. Not many eighth graders get Father’s Day presents. I remember once telling a friend about the gift my Dad gave me for Father’s Day, and he was confused. My Dad always gave my sister and brother and me gifts for Father’s Day.
“Being a Father is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he would explain to us. ”And I couldn’t be a Father if it wasn’t for you.” Although that was only technically true of my sister (his first born), I never argued the point. The message was clear, and it was one that I don’t think I truly grasped until I was a father myself. Becoming a father is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I am the father of two girls, and I adore them. Their laughter is beautiful music. Their smiles are the greatest of masterpieces. Their imagination is mind-boggling. Their dance is breath-taking. I savor every moment that we are together. They make me want to be a better person. I want to give them everything. On this Father’s Day, I want to give them a gift.
This year though, I’m not going to give them a doll or a toy. I’m not going to give them a book or a Blackhawks t-shirt. I’m going to give their gift to someone else, and they are compassionate enough to understand. Instead of giving to them, I am going to give to other daughters, because everytime I look at my daughters, I can’t help but see the future.
I dream of my daughters growing up in safety and health. I dream of them getting educated, finding their talents, discovering their gifts. I dream of them making lasting friendships and falling in love. I see tremendous giftedness in both of them, and my most important role as a father is to help them see and develop these gifts for themselves. My dream for them is to fulfill who they were created to be. My dreams for their future are a luxury that I will never take for granted.
My dreams for their futures are a luxury that most fathers in the world cannot afford. For most daughters of the world, safety, dignity, education, and health are unattainable dreams. So my gift to my daughters on this Father’s Day is to the daughters of the world. My gift this Father’s Day is a word of encouragement. It is a word of awareness. It is a call to action.
Maternal health is not a women’s issue. It is a global concern. For millions of women, giving birth is the most dangerous thing they will ever do. Motherhood should be a gift of life, but far too often it is a death sentence. In many places in the world, women are valued for little more than giving birth. They are treated as a walking uterus, to be valued if they give birth, and thrown away when or if they cannot. Girls are forced into motherhood too soon, when it is biologically possible but anatomically dangerous. They are not allowed to rest and heal between pregnancies. They have little access to contraception. If pregnant, health care is difficult to find, and often impossible to afford. And postpartum care is not even on the RADAR for most.
My faith does not let me standby and allow this to happen. Jesus raised the widow’s son because he had compassion for her. He healed the woman that was bleeding for 12 years, returning her to a life fully integrated into the community. He invited the women to learn at his feet, alongside the men. He debated a foreign woman at the well, and exulted her faith. Jesus believed that crazy notion that women are to be valued and treated with dignity and respect.
I believe the same, and so I am called by that same Jesus to do something. I am called to give my daughters – and all daughters – a gift.
- Go to Healthy Families, Healthy Planet. This initiative is funded by the United Nations Foundation, and housed by the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. On this useful website, there are fact sheets, resources for worship, tips for hosting a panel discussion, and instructions on how to host a screening of the film, No Woman, No Cry.
- Find or host a screening of the incredible film No Woman, No Cry, which tells the story of four women with at-risk pregnancies. This is a touching, emotionally charged movie. It is documentary film-making at its best.
- Write to your Senators and Representatives, and tell them to support aid for international maternal health and family planning. Supporting women’s health is the single most cost-effective form of aid that we can give. Remember, Family Planning does not equal abortions. Increased access and education about contraception can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and reduce the demand for abortions. US Aid to International family planning efforts in 2012 provided contraception to 31 million families. This helped prevent an estimated 9 million unintended pregnancies, and 4 million abortions. Maternal health and family planning is Pro-Life. (source: the Guttmacher Institute)
- Men, stand up and be heard. Too many believe that maternal health is a woman’s issue. In most of the world, men’s voices are the most influential in determining public policy and education. If more men demanded that their daughters were taken care of, it would happen. There are education programs being set up through developing nations teaching men about their role in family planning. Stand up men, for your sisters, your mothers, and your daughters. Do no take the dreams you have for them for granted.
Dads, give someone a Father’s Day gift. Give a daughter hope for a future where she is not sold into slavery for her uterus. Give a daughter hope for an education. Give a daughter a dream for her future. Give a daughter the gift of life, and life abundant.