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June 14, 2013

Personal Maters: Loving words are most important Father's Day gifts

On Sunday, the third Sunday of June, fathers celebrate their special day.

All across the country, dads will try on new shirts, admire new cameras or camping equipment, exclaim over a book they’ve been wanting to read, and taking long-distance calls from grown children living in countries around the world.

Father’s Day was created by Sonora Smart Dodd in Arkansas in 1910. After a number of failed congressional attempts to make it a national holiday, it was, in 1966, finally proclaimed a day to honor fathers by President Lyndon Johnson. The day was then made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

I think the idea of honoring fathers (and mothers) with a national holiday is a good one, despite the incorrect, yet often heard complaint that it is another gimmick of the greeting card companies. It is truly a good idea because it is personally healthy to honor the relationships in our lives, and acknowledge those that are especially meaningful.

Unfortunately, the reality of Father’s Day celebrations often has little to do with thinking about or sharing feelings of love. Rather, it seems to be about buying specific kinds of material goods, and sending somber or cartoonish greeting cards that speak someone else’s words instead of your own.

This year, along with the gifts and funny cards (or perhaps in their stead), why not do something different for your dad? On Sunday, either in a letter, or even better with a letter and directly, tell your father how much you love and appreciate him for all he has given to you and your family.

This might seem like a difficult suggestion to follow if you do not have a relationship with your father that allows for openly expressed feelings. Traditionally, men in our culture have not been encouraged to give or accept expressions of love and affection comfortably. However, as I have noted in many other columns, in the same way that we need food to nurture our bodies, we human beings require love, both the giving and receiving of it, to nurture us psychologically and emotionally. Expressing and receiving love is a necessity in order for us to be well-functioning and healthy.

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