Dads are important for a lot of reasons. I’ve always held the notion that dads are vital in opening up to their children the world beyond the home. Of the best gifts my dad passed on to me, the love for travel and the ability to do it with joy and enthusiasm have served me. My dad’s legacy is foundational to who I am and how I interact with God, the world and myself.
Like a baby bird being nudged out of the safety of her nest, my first flight was a scary proposition for which I wasn’t prepared. I was six.
Holding on to my dad’s hand, I approached the plane as we walked outside from the terminal. It looked huge and threatening. The metal stairs seemed like teeth ready to devour me if I walked up them and through the door. When dad and I neared the propeller, I froze with fear, refusing to move another step. I stood there crying, not wanting to get on the plane.
But, parental coaxing got me on the plane and in my seat. The stewardess, and at that time she was called “stewardess,” offered a butterscotch candy before the plane took off. She was one of the first to win me over with those little touches that mean gracious service. She was kind and spoke soothingly. I was less afraid.
That first flight was from South Bend, Ind., to Detroit, Mich., a distance of about 220 miles by car. The sole purpose of the trip was the journey itself. Dad and I arrived in Detroit, ate lunch at a restaurant counter in the airport (turkey and mashed potatoes), and then returned to South Bend a short time later.
More than once I’ve taken a trip just for “soul purposes,” for the sake of the trip itself: Anchorage for dinner; Denver for a day; and New York City by train for a festive Christmas Day. These trips and every one that’s followed all began one autumn Saturday in South Bend when God, at work through my dad, bumped me out of a safe but confined world, encouraging me to see a wider world and learn about a far bigger one than I ever imagined.