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Fathers, be visionaries

Haynesley Griffith

Fathers, be visionaries

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Children are gifts. They are not ours for the breaking. They are ours for the making. – Dan Pearce
To me, my father stood head and shoulders above many fathers in his day. He was not the showy type, but in his focused way always demonstrated that he had the best interests of his family at heart. He had his faults like all fathers, but I could not fault him for being a visionary who looked beyond the immediate and saw future possibilities for each of his 11 children.   
He believed in preparing each of us for the world of work. My father, the only breadwinner, with so many mouths to feed, had the remarkable ability to save consistently and yet work hard to get the family out of poverty. He had an aversion for laziness and bad company, but a delight for hard, honest work and people who were productive in their thinking and behaviour.  
Tilling the land was his love and he made sure I was not deprived of vital lessons in the sowing and reaping of yams, potatoes, cassava, peas, beans and sugar cane.
He loved livestock, and my education in taking care of cows, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and dogs was both theoretical and practical. To say that I looked forward to the training in the above disciplines would not be truthful; I hated some of those chores, especially getting up at 5 a.m. to ride about a mile from home in the dark to go to milk the cows. Upon reflection, however, I am happy that I passed the examination in many of those structured areas of responsibility. 
He believed in punctuality and believed that respecting another person’s time was very important. I caught that practice and it has worked for me over the years. His empathy, discipline, compassion, dry humour and protection would take more than an article to emphasise. 
My dad grew up in an era where showing open affection was not the order of the day. I did not know that I had a deficit in that area of my life until I got married. My wonderful wife graciously pointed out the weakness in my emotions, especially in the area of verbally expressing love to her.
With some coaching and practice over the years, I was able to feel more and more confident in articulating my love toward her as well as becoming increasingly more romantic. I also had to learn to verbalise my love toward my two sons and embrace them as they moved into their teens, because it was a challenging transition for me. I have come a long way. 
There were a few missteps that my father made in his life which I took note of as a teenager and I made a decision not to place my feet in them for my future personal and family well-being.
However, there were some very positive indelible footprints that I felt very confident in walking that led me to move from “malehood” to manhood.  
One of the marks of his unusually keen insights into the future was when I failed the Common Entrance Examination and failed so badly that I could not qualify for a Government bursary.
I felt as though I was written off by the educational system as a failure. My peer group members saw me as a failure. My teachers saw me as a failure. Church people saw me as a failure.  I also saw myself as a failure.
But there was something my father saw in me that was not clear to other people; he saw beyond my failings and discerned tremendous potential and decided to invest in my formal education. Though very poor, he decided to squeeze an investment out of his scarce financial resources to put me through secondary school.
With failure still dogging my steps, it was challenging to immediately shake off the dust of the Common Entrance experience; but one day God opened my eyes to the fact that failing a test does not make a person a failure. That defining moment caused me not to use my failing as an excuse to set up a monument and bow down to it every day, but as a stepping stone to success.
Before I graduated from high school, I became head boy and returned to be a day school teacher during which time I graduated from teacher training college as a qualified teacher. I later went on to bible college where I became student body president.
In addition, my local, regional and international academic record in a variety of areas of disciple and specialties are well documented.
I am not highlighting my achievements as a means of defining who I am, because that would be a mistake; but to salute a father who never gave up on me when almost everybody else did.
As the only child in my household who had the privilege of attending secondary school, I am eternally grateful to God for making me who and what I am today and I am extremely thankful for an insightful, intuitive father who valued me. 
Today I use the opportunity to share my experiences with youngsters as a means of motivating them to see themselves not as failures or mistakes but as winners. I challenge them not to be in competition with anyone other than themselves and to set realistic goals and pursue them with diligence and dedication.
I am happy that I have seen both young men and women make tremendous strides in their academic and other areas of their lives as a result of taking my counsel. 
I say to all fathers, never give up on your children because God never made failures.
Look for the potential that is in them and do all that is humanly possible to encourage its growth and development.
You may be surprised at the treasure that may emerge.
• Haynesley Griffith marriage and family life consultant, Family Heartbeat International Network Inc. Email [email protected]