Life lessons


My phone rang just before choir practice. I was studying at Avondale College, 14,000 kilometres from home. It was my dad. “Hi Roddy,” he managed to say, using my childhood nickname. I could tell something was up. His voice, usually so strong and confident, suddenly sounded unsure. I could tell he was upset. 

It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

“What is it?” I asked, afraid to know. 

A family friend who we had grown up with—barely older than I was—had died in a motorcycle accident. It was this that had shaken up my dad. He was planning to attend the funeral and wanted to tell me what had happened. 

I don’t remember the exact conversation. But I do remember something he said to me that imprinted into my memory. 

“I wanted to tell you I love you and I’m so proud of you. Proud of who you are and proud of what you’re doing.” 

In the raw emotion of that moment, the affirmation filled my heart and gave me courage. 

Coming from my dad, this was huge. Not because he had never said that sort of thing or he wasn’t demonstrative—he is. We are a close and loving family. It’s hard to put it into words. This was a man I hugely respected, who had taught me to throw and to kick a ball—had always had time to play even when he was tired. He is funny, a little bit irreverent and can be the life of the party. Maybe it was the first time he had affirmed the life and career choices I was making; the first time in my somewhat independent college career that he had expressed that thought. 

The words we say, the way we act and the things we believe can have a profound impact on young people. This is especially true of fathers. A study conducted by the Swiss Government in 1994 and published in 2000 found that, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”1 

Valuegenesis 2, a study of students at Adventist schools, affirms the fact that parents talking about their faith, and the way they treat their kids, as well as both of them sharing common beliefs, contributes to those beliefs being passed on. 

Here are some life lessons I have learned from my father:

Hard work: When I was small, my parents didn’t have much. Dad worked long hours to provide for us. He taught me that if you’re going to do something, do your best at it and don’t give up. While some people don’t consider office work hard work, it is. Dad recently started his own business and once again, he’s working incredibly hard to establish it. 

Loyalty: Dad was very stable. Worked in the same finance job for the same company for 20 years and was very, very good at what he did (not just holding down a pay cheque); went to the same church, through good times and bad times, and stuck things out when the going was incredibly tough. 

Laughter: I remember laughing for hours on the two Pathfinder camps my dad attended. He taught me the value of a good laugh!

Put people first not please people first: Dad doesn’t care whether you like him or not; he will still try to get you the best outcome. He is willing to disagree with you but wants what is best for you. He will challenge you but it comes from a place of wanting the best outcome for everyone. 

Conviction: Dad was raised vegetarian and has stuck to it. He was surrounded by friends and colleagues who drank alcohol but was unashamedly the only one who didn’t. Dad modelled doing the right thing regardless of peer or work pressures.   

Take care: Dad doesn’t mind paying good money for quality. But he spends money less often because he buys things to last. He looks after his things and taught us to do the same—our own things and those of others. 

There’s so much more Dad has taught me, from being on time, to caring for other people’s things, but I can’t fit it all here. Don’t get me wrong; Dad’s not perfect—we often clash and have different ways of doing things. But I’m so grateful that he’s my dad. 

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Jarrod Stackelroth is editor of Adventist Record