On my way to Morro dos Macacos two weeks ago, I spotted a little girl walking with her dad on my street about 20 meters in front of me. She couldn't have been more than six years old. I probably wouldn't have noticed her had it not been for the bundled figure that she carried tenderly against her shoulder.
"That little girl is carrying a baby?!?" I thought, blinking in disbelief. My critical nature sized up her father and lined him up in my sights. "What brand of laziness is this? Maybe with her free arm you can make her tote a couple bags of groceries."
However, as she passed by, I turned around to get a better look, only to realize that what I thought was a baby was merely a doll. Cynicism gave way to guilt, then repentance. In my mind, I came to grips with the weight of this scene. This little girl carried a piece of plastic with more caution and concern than most carry their own flesh and blood, and the reason that she held it in such a manner was exactly because of the man at her side that I had so grossly misjudged ten seconds prior.
Fathers. Loving, present fathers. So much of our work here in Brasil is the fallout of the scarcity of such.
I'm very thankful for my own dad. Beyond that, I learn a lot from my friends who fit this profile. The other night I was talking to one such friend via Skype. I asked him about his kids, and he shared with me an image that has reshaped my ideal of fatherhood. Let me set the context for this image first. This guy has four kids - two young twin girls, a toddler and an infant. Nothing about his situation lends itself towards relaxing Saturday afternoons. However, when he has to go to Home Depot, he doesn't just ditch the kids with his wife in the name of efficiency. He loads all four of them into the car with him and leads his merry little band through the store.
Now, the image that stuck in my mind was his description of cutting the grass. If I have a task like that before me, I'll step back from people in order to get the job done. Not so with this guy. He bought a harness system where he can carry the kids on his back as he cuts. He also bought protective earmuffs for each one of the kids (save the newborn). They all take turns riding on his back while he circles around his lawn. His reason is simple. He decided long ago that he didn't want to live his life in spite of his kids or in function of his kids. Instead, he was determined to share life with his kids. In his case, that meant opting out of the riding lawn mower and giving his kids a ride instead. I'm endebted to my friend for this picture - not only because it shapes my own parenting methods but because it gives me a new understanding of our true Father as well.