It’s been an inspiring week for me in more ways than one. I was one of more than 2 million people who attended a Dawn Service on Anzac Day. All over Australia records were broken. The Canberra War Memorial Dawn Service had 120,000 people attend, three times the number of last year. That means that almost one third of the total population of the city of Canberra (385,000) got out of their warm beds around 4am to get to the Dawn Service. Canberra can be very cold early in the morning so this is a sacrifice all on its own.
Of course nothing can compare to the sacrifice that our soldiers have made over the decades, particularly those young men who landed at 4.28am at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 and never came home.
The Governor General of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, told an audience at the Brisbane Anzac Dawn Service, “It is appropriate for all of us to ask ourselves whether we are the worthy beneficiaries of the sacrifices we respectfully proclaim today. We will indeed be worthy if we exhibit in our daily lives the qualities of those who fought and died in Gallipoli . . . The characteristics of selflessness, comradeship and dedication to the common good . . . The Anzac spirit – courage, endurance and mateship was forged on the tragedy of Gallipoli . . . It inspired us as a nation to be the very best we can be. We remember with profound gratitude the families of those serving and the sacrifices they endured and endure.”
Paul’s words remind me of the other inspiration I received this week while talking to the prospective applicants for the Dads4Kids Train the Trainer Summit to be held 22-24 May 2015 at Stanwell Tops, just south of Sydney.
I have talked to some amazing fathers this week who want to help turn the tide of fatherlessness in Australia. These men know that to do so, they themselves must first raise the bar on their own ability to be a father, and then make a long term commitment to help train other men to become better dads in the process.
One of the fathers, a proud dad of a 3 year old and an 8 month old who trains pilots in the air force, told me of his profound commitment to learning as a father.
It costs a million dollars to train a pilot to fly the advanced aircraft that he teaches in. He well appreciates the value of both training and learning. The RAAF central flying school motto is “Qui Docet Discit” – “He who teaches learns”.
Another father of 9 children has been teaching parenting courses such as ‘Growing Kids God’s Way’ and running men’s groups for many years. Another hero for me. Anyone who has had four more children than me has already gone into my Fatherhood Hero Hall of Fame!
Another dad, let’s call him ‘Bill’ is also an absolute hero. Bill has an amazing journey of sacrifice and selflessness and has well and truly qualified to attend the Train the Trainer Summit.
Bill has 10 children, ranging in age from 2 weeks -17 years, so he was off to a good start. But it was Bill’s story of how his wife suffered from post natal depression after the birth of their seventh child that really grabbed my attention.
Bill’s wife attempted suicide several times and was in and out of psychiatric wards. She was totally immobilised, constantly crying and unable to get out of bed to carry out the most simple of tasks. I asked Bill what it was like. He said it was hell on earth and he just didn’t know what to do. This was the wife he married, the woman he loved, who had become someone he could barely recognise. Internal family problems made the matter even worse.
Many times Bill doubted his own sanity but he prayed and sought wisdom from the Father of Lights. Thankfully he had a friend who realised not only the severity of his wife’s depression but that Bill was also in danger of going over the edge. Bill’s friend rang him every day for 12 months to assure him of his support, love and prayers. This was a huge help.
A major turning point came in his life when he said to his wife, “If you kill yourself, I will still love you. I will grieve but I will still love you no matter what. I am not afraid of the things that you are afraid of and I will not be moved to fear by your threats. You are my wife and I love you. I want you by my side so together we can raise the children we have been given. Whatever happens, I will always love you.”
It was in that moment that Bill counted the cost of love, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”. In that moment he realised that “perfect love casts out all fear”. Fear had been ruling his life and his wife’s life, but the grip of fear was broken at that moment and he made a commitment to care for and love his wife, no matter what! A bit like the characteristics of selflessness and dedication exhibited by the young men at Gallipoli. Bill decided he would love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Over the next 18 months things slowly improved for Bill and his wife. Bit by bit she gradually improved until today she is outgoing, happy and they have a wonderful marriage together. I asked Bill what were the key steps to total health and what practical advice he could offer other men. He said:
1. I made sure my wife was physically healthy. I helped her exercise and create her own fitness and wellness regime.
2. All I asked and expected my wife to do each day, in the middle of her post natal depression, was for her to smile at the children. The children and I did all the housework and cooking. This gave my wife time to heal without pressure.
3. I facilitated her engagement with her friends and tried to push her out of the house as much as possible and help her make time for herself. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “No man is useless while he has a friend”.
4. I tried to create weekly time just for the two of us because a mother can often lose herself in her family. A father’s job is to rescue her from her sacrifice for her family. I would take her away regularly and get the children minded to help nurture our marriage, which like all marriages has to be constantly worked on. “The greatest thing a man can do for his children is to love his wife”. This has proved to be foundational for my success as a father and as a husband too.
Bill’s example of sacrifice and selflessness should inspire us all, just like the Anzac soldiers who gave up their lives for our freedom. We, as men, are called to follow this example for our own wives and children.
I have to admit I fail regularly on both counts, but I refuse to give up, just as Bill refused to give up on loving his wife in spite of his own weakness and failure.
Bill told me that the whole ordeal taught him that he had to man up, accept responsibility, accept the worst, and then in spite of the worst, expect the best and love unconditionally.
Homework this week is to practise loving unconditionally.
Don’t be discouraged, it often takes a lifetime to learn unconditional love and is often best proved on the battlefield of life. Lest we forget.
Yours for Unconditional Love
PS. HELP NEEDED!!!
We still have 10 places available at the Dads4Kids Train the Trainer Summit to equip men to teach men the Good to Great Course. We automatically invite Alumni Trainers back again to support and encourage them each year.
Even with those places taken into account we still have ten places for men who want to follow in the footsteps of the dad of two who is an RAAF Training Officer. His squadron’s motto is “Qui Docet Discit” – “He who teaches learns” should be ours.
The only way to truly learn is to teach. Dads4Kids is offering free training to approved applicants wishing to become Master Coaches and train men for five courses.
We have extended the deadline for applicants by an extra seven days.
Please pass this information on to your friends who may be interested in partnering with Dads4Kids to help the children of Australia. Together we can make a difference!