by Melodie Davis
for release June 16, 2000
Father's Day: The Not So Famous
Forget about 15 minutes of fame. Some of us are satisfied just getting 15 minutes in the presence of fame. There is something about seeing or hearing a famous person that leaves most of us at least a little bit excited. My parents recently had the opportunity to visit former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's Maranatha Baptist church in Plains, Georgia. Luckily, it was a Sunday that Jimmy was in town and teaching his Sunday school class as he has for many years.
"What a thrill to be in the presence of the former president," Mom wrote. "I could hardly believe it was me. He was dressed flawlessly, not one wrinkle. Every hair in place. We sat on a front row, about two feet from Carter. An excellent Sunday school teacher. He did not lecture, but had good questions and led a discussion. He walked back and forth in front. There was a long line after church waiting to take pictures and he patiently took pictures with anyone that wanted one." Later I found out that Dad had a personal conversation with the former president about a mutual acquaintance. They say that each person in the world is only four persons away from having a mutual acquaintance.
The same weekend that Mom and Dad sat at the feet of Jimmy Carter, I sat 15 feet away from Jesse Jackson who was speaking at a banquet in Chicago. Jesse was literally flying from one negotiation to another, so he appeared quite tired. By the end of his speech, he warmed up to his animated Jesse Jackson style. But such a setting allows for little more than a "look there he is!" involvement.
Lest you think I'm wearing politics on my sleeve here, one of my other "brushes with fame" was hearing George Bush (Sr.) speak at a convention in the middle of the Gulf War. He, too, appeared exhausted, much shorter than I thought he would be. He had a cold; it was an early breakfast meeting; for the first time I felt sorry for such people and the schedules they have to keep, no matter how they are feeling.
While it is fun and sometimes makes us feel important to talk about the famous people we have heard speak, glimpsed at an airport, or gotten an autograph from, most of us know how to keep such things in perspective. We know that it is the people who are closest to us that will be there for us when we need help. Persons like dear old dad. Most of our fathers-if we are lucky to even have a father in our life -didn't grow up to be president, prime minister, or even run for an office.
Instead, they sweat it out working on roofs in the hot summertime or freezing on cold girders at a construction site in the winter. They get up at three, four, or five to go to work each day or grind through a graveyard shift working till those bone-weary hours of the wee a.m. They worry about money for preschool and babysitter, for piano lessons and flutes, about new furnaces and when the old lawn mower that is on its last life will die.
They sit through wet, chilly spring track meets and Sunday afternoon recitals on fishing-perfect days. They read stories and jiggle babies and stay up all night when Mom is in labor. They get an education they didn't really want in which brands of shoes are hot for pre-adolescent girls, which sneakers are have-to's for teenage guys.
Fathers who don't give in when the lure of sleeping in or sleeping around tempts them are especially worthy of our honor, admiration and loving remembrances this Fathers Day. I think back to former President Jimmy Carter. His presidency ended on such a sad note: the Iranian hostage crisis-the apparent "downfall" of his presidency, resolved just minutes after he stepped out of office.
Yet he didn't retreat to Georgia with tail tucked behind him. He has gone on to an admirable third career as volunteer/spokesperson for the Habitat for Humanity worldwide "simple decent housing for everyone" effort, and as a retired statesman and conflict negotiator. Fathers who don't quit when they're down-who go out and get another job after they've been fired, who seek forgiveness and make amends if they've done wrong, who hang in there through teething rings and college bills-these are the men whom we toast and salute and give 15 minutes of fame (and rest!) this Father's Day.
Do you have a special father story to share? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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