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Daughter To Father

People always said they could see

  • a certain magic
  • between the father and his daughter.
  • Even when she was just a toddler (and he just a graduate student)
  • there was an open, visible, two-way pride...
  • and for sixteen years since then, it had grown... his joy in
  • all she had learned, all she had become, and mostly
  • in the fact that she was his daughter...
  • her joy in all he was and all he stood for, and mostly
  • in the fact that he was her daddy.
  • (And that was still his name,
  • because she still felt the same simple love and
  • respect
  • that she had when "Daddy" was the first
  • and only
  • word she could say.)
  • Between them, a total openness and love and trust had developed...
  • so complete that facades and competition and the need to prove
  • had never even flickered into the relationship...
  • and such a oneness that the sharing of a happy memory
  • stirred more joy
  • than the original event,
  • and the sharing of troubles came as second nature.
  • She knew things about herself when she was with him
  • that she didn't know when she was alone...
  • and so did he.

Long walks happened between them now...

  • sometimes for reasons, sometimes for none, and brought about
  • a communication so complete
  • that both felt a lingering awareness of a third present entity...
  • a clarifying catalystic force
  • that transcended the words they spoke
  • and telegraphed feeling,
  • heart to heart.

One clear soft evening

  • in autumn,
  • beneath the lofting elms that shrouded their street,
  • she slipped her hand into his and whispered above the stillness,
  • "Daddy... what is the most important thing of all?"
  • It was a silly question in a way... a profound one in another...
  • She knew it was... but it was a night for questions like that...
  • they had time.

The father thought as they walked,

  • for serveral silent minutes,
  • and then he gave his daughter the right answer
  • in one word:
  • "Relationships."

The thought had never come to him like that before,

  • yet as he said it, he knew it had a kind of inspiration
  • and his mind formulated questions to teach his daughter
  • what he felt.

"Can you think of a single better measurement of happiness

  • than the number and depth of the relationships
  • a person has?"
  • The moonlight caught her hair as her head turned,
  • "Certainly not money... not possessions... maybe testimony
  • and conviction that God lives...
  • but that is a relationship, isn't it...
  • with God?"
  • His thoughts rushed to catch hers,
  • "What is that relationship... with God... what is its nature?"
  • "Parent-Child."
  • "You know, we say it so often... I wonder if we really hear it.
  • Does the phrase 'I am a child of God' stop in your mind
  • as it goes through your ears?
  • And how many do you think really believe the phrase..
  • (Assuming that understanding it is prerequisite to believing it)?"
  • "Not many, Daddy...
  • if we did
  • we would spend more time seeking to strengthen and improve that
  • one relationship."

He nodded, then went on, teaching himself as he taught her...

  • "Is there anything you can take with you... from this life
  • to the next
  • other than the relationships you have formed?"
  • She paused for some time... formulating what she thought was
  • a full answer,
  • "To be able to retain our relationships beyond this earth
  • must be our greatest blessing...
  • but there is more that we can take...
  • Knowledge, judgment, capacities... all that we become
  • internally
  • while we are here."
  • They walked on in silence for a few moments and then
  • her definition of "relationships" expanded to match his
  • and she went on,
  • "Relationships with self... that's what all of these things are."

From that plateau, he reached again,

  • "Is there anything else? I mean
  • if a person was suddenly voided of all the relationships he had...
  • would there be anything left?"
  • "No... nothing...
  • except maybe the potential to build new relationships."

Now their thoughts leap-frogged past each others'.

  • Her answers went beyond his questions and bounced his mind
  • into deeper perspectives.
  • "Can't almost everything be translated into a relationship...
  • our problems,
  • our fulfillments,
  • our concerns and worries, our joys and pleasures...
  • don't all stem from one relationship or another...
  • and if they do, why don't we focus more effort
  • on relationships?"
  • "I don't know, Daddy... I guess partly because we all work
  • so hard on achievement...
  • on getting things done and on gaining material things.
  • That word is really the villian, isn't it?... "Things"...
  • things are the antithesis of people;
  • and that's the choice we face so often...
  • people or things...
  • relationships or achivements...
  • taking time to get to know someone or getting another thing done.
  • Why is it that we usually choose the thing over the person,
  • even when we know that the thing is temporary
  • and the person is forever?"
  • Now he was answering instead of asking,
  • "Maybe...
  • maybe because we think of relationships not as ends in themselves
  • but as the means to other ends.
  • When you think about it, our 'relating' usually takes one
  • of two forms...
  • either it is small talk, for social reasons,
  • with no motives;
  • or it has ulterior motives of achieving some objective...
  • some thing other than the relationship itself."

"Daddy, how many real relationships do you have? And

  • how many
  • do you need?"
  • "I don't know... I mean, I guess that
  • it depends on what a real relationship is.
  • What constitutes one... what are the essential ingredients?
  • What do we mean when we say
  • 'a real relationship'?"
  • So they built a mental list as their walking ruslted the leaves
  • underfoot.
  • First the father, then the daughter...
  • stimulating each other's thought...
  • setting up an expanded defintion of an ideal relationship
  • and of what it would contain:

Investment of time... together

  • Trust
  • Openness
  • Honesty - Integrity
  • Shared experiences
  • Background knowledge
  • Personality insight
  • Respect
  • Interest
  • Concern
  • Admiration
  • Commonality
  • Commitment
  • Giving of one's self
  • Empathy
  • Understanding
  • Communication
  • Patience
  • Love
  • Sincerity
  • Delight
  • Participation
  • Challenge
  • Stimulation
  • Progression
  • Tolerance
  • Listening
  • Receiving
  • Sharing

Finally, a longer silence signaled that the list

  • was done,
  • at least for then.
  • They had walked a mile, the moon was higher...
  • "Can you imagine the value of one relationship possessing all
  • these qualities?
  • Can you even compare it with anything else?"

The conversation shifted from question to answer

  • to question to question
  • because
  • some questions needed no verbal answers
  • and others needed reflection and pondering beyond that one
  • crisp evening:
  • "How many of the 'relationship components' in the list
  • apply to a relationship with God?
  • to a relationship with self?"
  • "How many real relationships do
  • you
  • have... (if the list is your criteria)?
  • How many should you have... (if 'should' is defined as
  • 'prerequisite to happiness')?"
  • How many do you need... (if 'need' is defined as
  • 'essential to exaltation')?"
  • "Is a deep relationship selfish
  • or selfless?
  • or both?"
  • "Is there anything more exciting
  • than really relating to someone?
  • Is there any thrill
  • to match?"

(Her hand tightened on his fingers, and performed the answer

  • to the last question.)

They turned for home

  • but the talk continued on that and other nights...
  • and focused
  • on Relationships with Self
  • Relationships with God
  • Relationships with Family...
  • for they are the three that are essential
  • to exaltation
  • And they are the three on which the full Gospel sheds
  • so much
  • unique and additional light.

Introduction to 'Relationships... Self... Family... God' -- Paul H. Dunn and Richard M. Eyre

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