A Matter of Faith

“I won the daddy lottery”


Several years ago, a friend of mine from college days posted on social media that he had just been diagnosed with a serious disease and was given less than a year to live. 

He said he would keep in touch with all his friends and let us know from time to time how he was doing. I saw only one more post from him and then there was word that he had passed away. I don’t remember what the disease that took his life was, but I will never forget what his daughter posted: “I won the daddy lottery!”

Rich was a successful educator, having earned a doctorate in education from Stanford University and was a professor and dean of a department at Cal Berkeley. But that exclamation from his daughter told the world that he was a successful father.

Many men can look back on a successful career and be proud of how much money they earned, how many awards they received, how many patents they secured, how many bestselling books they wrote or how big a car they drive — but don’t ask them about their family.

I exchanged numerous communications with Rich and I knew the values he lived by. I have no doubt that the accolades he received from his family members meant more to him than all the academic achievements that were listed on his curricula vitae. Rich knew the meaning of true success, as his daughter declared.

This Sunday is Father’s Day, not as big a deal as Mother’s Day. With the changing of men’s fashions, what do you give good-old Dad if he no longer wears a neck tie? Certainly not a bouquet of red roses. Mom can prepare a lavish meal for Dad on his day, but it is out to a restaurant on Mom’s day — if he didn’t forget to make a reservation.

I, a retired pastor, observe that more of today’s pastors are getting it right than my generation did and are more inclined to make their family a high priority. Back in my day we had no qualms about using our evenings making pastoral calls or hospital visits, or attending church board and committee meetings.

“Sorry, kids, but I have to put God first.” (And if the church doesn’t grow, I’ll never get the pay raise we need.)

I remember the evening I was driving the church van to the hospital to pray with a parishioner who was having surgery the next morning and a policeman pulled me over. “Reverend, are you all right? You are weaving.” 

“I’m sorry, officer; I’m just tired.” 

“Well, you make your call and get home.”

Strangely, in my wife’s extended family are two young ministers, both of whom are pastoring churches that are thriving and growing, each above 1,000 in attendance. I say “strangely” because they admit to us that they practically never make home visits or hospital calls but spend most evenings at home. And we love and admire their beautiful families.

I am grateful that my children survived those years and one son has followed me in ministry.

They have given us wonderful grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Do I have regrets? Not about my call to be a pastor, but I admire my friend Rich who had the right priorities regarding his family.

One of the most poignant songs I know speaks to family priorities is entitled “Cat’s in the Cradle”: “... And as he grew, he’d say, ‘I’m gonna be like you, Dad. You know I’m gonna be like you.’”

Each verse names a missed opportunity to be a successful father and has a sad ending: “When you comin’ home, son?” “I don’t know when/ But we’ll get together then, Dad/ We’re gonna have a good time then.” The son turned out to be just like his father — absent.

Our society needs successful fathers like my friend Rich, whose sons and daughters want to be like him — to win the Daddy lottery.

This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to editor@pagosasun.com.