If you have the great privilege to meet Brian Herbert Maret, you immediately like him, but more importantly, you immediately feel liked. Did you catch that? You immediately feel liked. Listen again. You immediately feel liked. This is the man I call Dad.
Yes. My dad is a gardener and can grow a mean crop of tomatoes. Yes. He’s a missionary and has lived his life serving the God he loves. Yes. He’s a sports fanatic and will watch almost anything with a ball in it. Yes. He packs the best boxes in the safest ways for shipping items all the way to Africa or even New Jersey. Yes. He loves fishing and touching worms and pulling out all the hooks that get lodged in places fish (and squeamish daughters) are not happy about. Yes. He’s a husband who has loved my mom for more than 63 years. Yes. He is all those things and so much more.
Nature and/or nurture passed down only some of those things to me. No. I am not a gardener. Yes. I love God. Yes. I’m a sports fanatic. No. I can’t pack a box to ship across the street, much less to Africa. No. I don’t like catching fish or touching worms or pulling out hooks. Yes. I love my husband and hope to make it to 63 years (28 and counting – check it out HERE).
BUT BUT BUT…
There’s a few more powerful life lessons he shared with me that made me be a better mom (and a better human)…
1. GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR
For as long as I can remember and especially during my young mom years, the image I have of my dad is ON THE FLOOR surrounded by children (and toys and crafts and books). The key is ON THE FLOOR. At their level. Doing what they love.
One day, I watched my daughter crouch down to speak with a child who was asking her questions. I asked her why she did that and she responded, “I learned that from you, Mom. It shows basic respect for them, even though they are little.” “Oh my goodness,” I said, “I learned that from my dad. It just comes automatically.”
Thanks, Dad, for helping me to “get down on the floor” with my own children and those I don’t even know very well, to be a respecter of persons, no matter whether they are two or 92, brown-skinned or blue-eyed, the King of Ethiopia or the poor Somali boy with no shoes. Based on the podcasts I have done with my now child-adults, this idea of respect at all costs for all people seems to have struck their deepest chord. Thanks, Dad.
2. TALK TO STRANGERS IN GROCERY STORE LINES
I know how to embarrass my kids. That’s for sure. Especially when my two youngest were teens. I talked to strangers in strange places, but especially in grocery store lines. If they were wearing a Steelers hat, I would strike up a conversation about the latest game they lost or won. If their cart was filled with healthy fare, I would make some comment of admiration, knowing my checkout receipt was laden with Cheetos, Gogurts and frozen pizza. To add to the problem, their older brother joined in the fun! They, however, hoping to avoid this horrible atrocity of connection, would rebuke me quietly in my ear or poke me in the ribs, reminding me that we were just here to shop and get home.
I was a little kinder to my dad when he did this very thing (probably because I secretly loved it). It wasn’t just grocery store lines. It was the man sitting next to him at a sporting event. It was the new neighbor getting their mail. It was the teenager crabbing on the same pier. I am still kind to him when he does it and in fact, I spark up the conversation right along with him.
Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that people, and even my own kids, want to be known and seen and heard. That you can always find that “something” that provides the sacred space of human connection and by doing so, reminding each one that they are of great value. Thanks, Dad, that finally, my now 19-year-old admitted to me (the last time it happened) that she “gets it” and that she actually likes that part of me. Thanks, Dad, for passing along that trait and your friendly self to my second-born who is relentless in his pursuit of a common connection with those he meets (as one of his friends reminded me just yesterday).
3. MOW LAWNS THAT AREN’T YOUR OWN AND KEEP IT A SECRET
I found out recently that my eighty-something parents drive their widowed, ninety-something neighbor to get groceries. Lots of secrets were kept about these very kinds of things. I would find out from others all the little (sometimes big), kind, generous, unseen gestures that my dad would do for them. Mowing lawns (“I’m outside anyway.”), washing endless dishes every night when we were teens, sharing zucchini from his beloved garden, giving money to the poorer at a time he was poor himself, praying every single morning for us kids and now his grandchildren (along with my mom), and of course, so many things that are still a secret.
Thanks, Dad, for encouraging me during those unseen times of being a mom (countless loads of laundry, lunches made, sleepless nights and booboos kissed…something I now have in common with my own child-mom). Thanks for reminding me that it all counts (not just the stuff that’s noticed), that nothing is too little, that each ordinary act of kindness makes me a better mom and the world a better place, a place where God and all His kindness, generosity, and many times unnoticed Self is revealed to those who need it most.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD! And all you other amazing dads out there! It’s your day and I celebrate you!