Last night my “original family unit” had dinner together in preparation for my dad, the Lewster’s, surgery. It just so happened that no spouses or children came, so we had a nice time, reminiscent of similar dinners from my childhood–big jokes despite the circumstances, thin edge of sarcasm, and my dad striking up conversations with random people.
At one point in the evening, as my sister was furiously framing the perfect photograph, he began chatting with a couple at the table immediately next to us. The youngish fella at the table was handsome, well-built, and sporting a stylish blonde doo. My dad’s uncanny ability to extract much information out of a short conversation revealed that this guy had played football at one time for the Tennessee Vols.
A while later, my dad returned to their table to satisfy his itching curiosity of whether this table neighbor played professional football for the Tennessee Titans. In a self deprecating shrug, the guy more or less said “no” with a face that said a thousand words, “too old, too slow, not strong enough, and more of like.” Like spinach to Popeye, Lewster found his strength, “have you tried out? You should try out, you would be great…you only live once.” He knew nothing of his abilities; he had not seen any footage, but in a very genuine way, he encouraged this stranger like a friend, like a son. This is the dad that raised me.
He was the East Tennessee boy who wooed all of the girls in school; played all of the sports; he was the superstar. He went on to college and ascended the ranks of the football team to become the captain. A tall feat for a 5’10” left guard. In the army, he ascended the ranks his platoon to become the Superior Cadet as he travelled the world. In the FBI, he always sought to serve with his highest and best. Everything that he pursued he has always given his all. He brings his game.
By contrast, my brother and I didn’t play many sports, weren’t football players, didn’t go into the armed services, didn’t follow behind in the footsteps of the FBI, yet the Lewster was always proud and encouraged us (even in the impossible). He always subrogated his desires to our ambitions only gently redirecting where appropriate.
He is a farmer of hope. In fallow ground he plants the seeds of possibility–even in places where others assume drought. When I was about seven years old, the Lewster led a SWAT team to arrest a most wanted criminal. After the blue lights stopped and the guns were holstered, he spent significant time digging into the fugitive’s life and mining for hope over interrogating him.
All too often we look for hope to magically appear. We misplace goals for hope, like tactics for strategy. Hope is the fundamental belief that circumstances, no matter how dire, can change. It is the ability to look at some dirt and a little spec and see the significant harvest. Hope is not fleeting; it is a root that grows through one’s life, which built on strong foundation can weather a storm.
As I chose the picture for this post, I really searched for something that represented the living roots that both my mom and dad bring to our family. This picture, taken recently, has all the wonderful blooms of the family.
It is unlikely that the fella at the restaurant called up his agent and scheduled a tryout for the Titans, but who knows the boost that he may have received from the fun Lewster encounter. The power of hope cultivated with the encouragement that someone believes in your abilities, can help you move mountains. My dad’s encouragement is magnetic. It is something that I aspire to emulate. It has led me in some of my darkest moments and most difficult decisions.