Published November 25, 2009
In my most recent book, The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be: Taking a Stand for True Masculinity, I devoted an entire chapter to the issue of men behaving with dignity, especially when in front of the eyes of the nation, their family, or their children. I understand how difficult it is these days to do so. Yet amongst the turmoil of financial challenges that hit home, a war for our safety that seems at times elusive, and the ever increasing reality that our elected leaders are deaf to us, I still believe that dignified leadership from the men of our culture is of immense value.
The reason I even bring this up is simple, this Thanksgiving I more reflective tha I usually am. I've been an adoptive father of a cross-cultural, special needs son for over 13 years and sometime this spring, my long-anticipated desire to become a biological father will finally come to pass. As a result, everything I am seeing, thinking, experiencing and engaging in these months is taking on a fresher feeling, seems infused with stronger symbolism and has a whole lot more metaphorical meaning than anything I've experienced in recent holidays.
So how can I as an effusive, expectant father -- and someone who is far too acquainted with the shortfalls of our culture to be at ease with much of what I encounter on a daily basis -- find peace this Thanksgiving?
Part of the answer, I hope, is found in my own words: "Dignified behavior, leadership and love are lost ideas in the midst of this always on the move, action-packed, attention deficit world. But they are not completely absent."
Dignified behavior is on full display by all of our service personnel this Thanksgiving, who will stand at their posts, sacrifice their own holiday celebrations and feasts so that we, and their families back home, may do so with absolute calm. They will fly missions, stand alert, and perhaps even be attacked while we sleep under the blanket of that dignity. And if, in fact, they are attacked, they will respond with force, strength, assertion and boldness. When the fighting is concluded they will even treat those they take into custody with significantly more dignity than any of our enemies have shown the military personnel or civilians they've taken captive in our on-going fight against terror. So I say to myself, take heart, dad! If our servicemembers can maintain their dignity through such enduring circumstances, how much more can we, as we seek answers to the challenges we face this year.
Dignified leadership is another quality I seek to take on through the end of this year. Yet one more reason I can give thanks this year is that in America I have a better chance to practice dignified leadership here than anywhere else on earth. Yes, times are tough. Yes, just like nearly 20% of the Americans, our family has struggled financially to make ends meet. Yet in the Almighty's generosity to us we have not gone hungry. Because of this great evidence of grace, I feel it is my obligation to assist with those who do go hungry, who have gone without homes, clothing, or even basic needs.
Many churches in America are participating in the "Great Advent Conspiracy" this year. And to become engaged when many in their own congregations are in greater need than they have been in many years is a demonstrable statement of how we can lead by example. I would surmise that this is in fact the preferable way to go about life.
Dignified love is perhaps the most important reason and rationale that any of us could give others for expressing thanks this year. In a hurry-up, get-it-done yesterday sort of life, especially for those who are forced to live simply to survive, spending time with those we love has become something of a luxury. Taking the time to hold your bride's hand, wrap that arm around your husband, kiss the kids' foreheads and their boo boos is something that is needed more today than ever. And guess what? Physical gestures are probably expressed a little less right now. Yet just because things in your life or my life may be upside down, topsy turvy and filled with chaos doesn't mean that the meaning of the holiday ought to be stolen out from underneath us. If you're a husband who is working three part time jobs now, simply to replace the one salary you previously earned, know that your lovely bride is thankful for your efforts and reward her with some time well spent this weekend.
In the days to come I want my children to know that their dad loved the Thanksgiving holiday. Not for the food, football, and fun -- though I find nothing objectionable to any of them. Mostly I want them to know of my love for this holiday, because it calls me to be something better than I usually am, helps me see that the act of giving to others in need is a tremendous way to honor that. And because in the end I knew that with the basics of life covered, even in very tough times, I am a man who is deeply blessed.
And this year, this expectant father-to-be wishes the same for you... in abundance!
Kevin McCullough is the nationally syndicated host of "'Baldwin/McCullough Radio" now heard on 197 stations and columnist based in New York. He blogs at www.muscleheadrevolution.com. His second book "The Kind Of MAN Every Man SHOULD Be" is in stores now.