When I was a child, my dad worked third shift in a factory that made brakes. It was hard physical labor, but the money was good and he was able to provide for our family. During the summertime, he often got an extra night off each week, and Thursday nights became ours. I was a night owl just like him, so on Thursday nights after everyone else was settled in for the night, we would go out.
At the time-- I was probably around ten years old-- we had an old Volkswagen Beetle, white with a black convertible top. My dad would start it up (the engine sounded so loud against the silence of the night) and we'd drive. Back then, he considered it nearly a crime to have to pay over a dollar for a gallon of gas, and both the sales tax and the gas prices were cheaper in Georgia. So we'd go to Georgia to fill up the gas tank and bring back a full gas can or two for the other vehicles. Sometimes we'd go to Dalton, and sometimes to Fort Oglethorpe, and while we were there we'd stop at Walmart. We'd look around at stuff we were interested in, taking care to spend extra time in the books and magazines because it was one of our favorite sections, and we always bought a roll of Sweet Tarts as we were leaving the store. They were mostly for me, although I would give him the orange ones because I didn't like them, and sometimes the yellow ones too. They had recently introduced the blue Sweet Tart, and to this day if I taste one I immediately feel like I am back in that Volkswagen with my dad, driving through the night with the wind blowing through my hair.
My dad and I were close throughout my childhood. We had (and still have) similar personalities and senses of humor. Certainly we clashed sometimes; I was always very stubborn and persistent about what I wanted, and often he would say no for one reason or another, so I would do everything in my power to argue, bargain, and convince him to change his mind. (I was rarely successful, although he would smile and say that I'd make a great lawyer one day.) But we had so many good times together and countless wonderful memories. I'm grateful that I had a father who understood the importance of connecting with his children and who set aside time to spend with us one-on-one (and who is now committed to spending time with his grandchildren as well).
Fathers are so important-- yet many, many children are growing up without them. Thankfully, there are people and organizations out there who realize how significant it is for children to have a positive male influence in their lives, and they're doing what they can to be sure that fatherless children have mentors. The Mentoring Project is one such organization; they provide mentors for boys between the ages of seven and fourteen. This weekend, people from our church are coming together to hold a garage sale to raise money for The Mentoring Project. If you are in the area, I hope you'll come check it out. This is for such a good cause.