by Ev. Kenny Joseph

A little boy overheard two fathers talking. One said, “I’ve been married for 44 years and we’ve never had a fight.”

His Dad said, “Wow! I wish I could say that.” The boy said, “Go ahead, Dad, he just did!”

Father’s Day doesn’t even come close to Mother’s Day on telephone calls, greater even than Christmas. But Father’s Day has the most collect calls!

A college student sent his Dad a telegram: “No fun! No mon! Your son!” His Dad answered back, “Too bad! So sad! Your Dad.”

The real first Father’s Day was 7,000 years ago when Adam and Eve’s two boys, Cain and Abel, brought an offering to their heavenly Father.

Father’s Day, contrary to what many believe, was not established as a holiday to help greeting card companies, because when an annual “Father’s Day” was first proposed there were none. America’s first Father’s Day was observed in Spokane, Washington, in 1910.

Louise Smart Dodd first proposed the idea of a “Father’s Day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children all by himself. Mrs. Dodd wanted Father’s Day to be celebrated on her father’s birthday.

Over the next decade, cities across America began celebrating a day for fathers. In 1924 President Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. In 1966 President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1972 President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day. This came 60 years after Mother’s Day was proclaimed a national day of observance. Ladies first!

Harry C. Meek, president of Chicago’s Lions Club, gave several speeches around America expressing the need for a day to honor our fathers. In 1920 the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch inscribed, “Originator of Father’s Day.”

Some traditions: If your father is living, wear a red rose; If your father has passed away, wear a white rose; Give a very creative tie to your father; Have a cookout, prepared by your Dad, himself, if possible; Tell your Dad how much you love him—and why; Give him a big hug!

During 50 years in Japan we’ve watched the commercialization of national holidays. Bakeries put Christmas on the map with their Decoration Cakes! Chocolate companies promote Valentine’s Day. They still haven’t come up with Easter ideas. Father’s Day means buying a tie for dear old Dad.

Children once gathered up their millionaire father’s belongings to ship them away. In his lock box were faded Father’s Day cards carefully tucked in among the stocks and bonds.

■ Japan’s Absent Fathers? ■
What about Japan’s fathers? A clinical, statistical, dry report in the April Japan Close-up magazine features “How Japan’s Dads Rate.” The magazine is put out by PHP (Peace, Health and Prosperity) founded by the owner of Matsushita Denki (National). He once saw water running from a spigot in a field and wondered why electricity couldn’t be as freely used as water. The rest is history.

The article states, “The father’s role is coming under increased scrutiny as the number of violent incidents by children increases. Many believe that the issues troubling our youngsters stem from the collapse of the family unit or the ‘absent father.’ Today’s fathers between 20 and 40 may represent the first generation in history expected to take on equal responsibility for child rearing.

“Without role models, their every-day struggle to discover what makes a good father is a matter of trial and error.

“Today is a difficult time for good fatherhood to thrive as many dads find themselves under the constant threat of ‘restructuring’ (firing) at work, or dismissed or disrespected by their families at home. But interest in the role of fathers is growing worldwide. Bookstores in Japan offer shelves of books about fatherhood. Last year America saw the debut of a magazine called Dads, which was all about how to be a good father. We used recent survey data to present a true picture of Japan’s dads. We see evidence that Japan’s dads are struggling to escape from the old stereotypes, not so much ‘being a man’ as being yourself.”

■ Future Freeter Fathers ■
For Japan fathers, it produced what the latest Newsweek cover story (June 30, ’01) called: the “Freeters,” a combination of “free” and “arbeit” or free workers. Independent drifters from one job to the other. These were raised in the 10 years of Japan’s lost boom years. They saw their fathers working dawn to dusk and having nothing to show for it and they don’t want to repeat that. It features a young man with a law degree who would rather work for himself by passing out fliers than in a law firm.

Is this the future of Japan?

“Who do you lean on? Who do you go to when you have trouble?” 48% said their own family, 44% said no one. The rest were divided between friends and superiors at work These were also the same ones who answered, “Are you apprehensive about retirement and what is the biggest worry Loss of income; too much free time on my hands and loss of work-related companionship (drinking buddies).”

■ The Christian Difference ■
Now we look to Christians. My dear old father fled Northern Persia to escape a massacre in 1917 by the major religious party, which slaughtered 180,000 Christians. This pales in comparison to the 1,500,000 Armeni­ans killed. Dad arrived in Chicago via Russia, London and ship, with $8 in his pocket. He had to work at two or three jobs in real estate and hotels while learning English.

His four children all finished college and three went into professions. He got home at midnight and was snoring when we left for school. Absent father! A father like that gets a zero chance of producing any children of value. But God…Jesus….made the difference….and his wife was a praying Christian.

One of my early Japanese pastor friends reared six children in very austere circumstances after the war. Everything was scarce, yet five out of the six entered the Christian ministry in Japan and America. One pastors the biggest church in Kanto, with more than 1,000 seats. The difference was God and His Son Jesus.

Both of these fathers could pray, “God, I have nothing, but all that I have I give into your hand; please take it and multiply it.”

The answer was, “I will. 30%; 60%; 100%.” And so, what about you? Are you a father? Or do you have a father? How about giving him the respect due him? A hug, a card or an expensive present, on June 17? God’s promise is, “I will turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the fathers to the children.”

(Kenny Joseph, 50-year veteran evangel­ist-author’s latest book is, Jujika no Kuni: Japan” (The Country of the Cross: Japan) Published by Tokuma.)