Friday, October 21, 2011

A Father's Blessing

I know this plays like a commercial, but it's really just another excuse to talk about the grandkids. The occasion is the release of the updated version of The Blessing, John Trent and Gary’s Smalley’s popular family-oriented, Christian “self-help” book, originally published in 1986.

I read the book back then, and as a Christian with a fairly recent psychology degree and a strong desire to raise a family, it punched all my buttons. Problem was I didn’t have a family of my own. I wasn’t married; I wasn’t even dating. So it was a bit like reading escapist fiction for me.  But now, of course, my world is different. I'm married and occasionally dating (my WIFE, silly people!); I count six kids and seven grandkids.

My grandson Damon had a tough time last school year. He is now in 1st grade for the second time. This year, he’s doing well academically, but it’s taken a while for him to deal with this thing emotionally. It seems that repeating a grade and trying to fit into a new school are not easy realities to get used to.

Laura, my wife, and I get to see him every morning. Before we pick up his cousin Elliott for the day, we travel to Damon’s house to drive him to school. When we get to Damon’s house each schoolday morning, his mom, Chrissy, has already taken his brothers Christian and Dylan to their schools on her way to work.  Brother Michael is also at work. Damon is at home with his daddy, Thomas, who is there after having worked into the evening. Damon's little sisters, Chelsea and Zoey, are usually sleeping.

Before leaving the house with Damon, we ask him, “Did you do you homework? Did you get your folder signed? Are you all set?” It’s the ritual. The last part of the ritual is when he goes to his daddy. Thomas hugs him, holds him close, and whispers a prayer for the day. He challenges Damon to do his best, to obey his teachers, to be kind to his classmates. He says “I love you,” and kisses him. Damon is then ready to face his day.

That moment lasts less than a minute each day, but it makes all the difference in the world for how Damon navigates that day. Thomas bestows a blessing on Damon.

That’s The Blessing John Trent and Gary Smalley describe in their book. Their contention is that The Blessing bestowed upon our children (our grandchildren, spouses, other family members and friends) can make a difference in how they navigate, not just one day, but their entire lives. For the authors there are five elements to The Blessing:

1. Use meaningful and appropriate touch.

2. Use a spoken message of encouragement.

3. Attach high value. Communicate that person’s value.

4. Help them picture a special future.

5. Actively commit to helping them succeed.

I’d like to say that I taught Thomas everything he knows in this regard, but it wouldn’t be true. Thomas is one of those rare people gifted by God as a natural nurturer, a natural encourager. Most of us are not like that. Most of us need help learning how to bestow that blessing. For us, the book, The Blessing, can help.