On Saturday, January 31, 2015, my Dad announced that he is retiring. A pretty run of the mill occurrence you might think. No, not in this case. You see, my Dad has spent just shy of three decades’ worth of his life in public service. He has been the County Supervisor for the Mount Vernon District in Fairfax County, VA since 1987.
If you believe in things as fate-filled as “callings,” my Dad’s calling has always been to be a public servant. It is what drove him to be president of the PTA, president of our local social services agency, UCM, run for state delegate in the late 70’s, serve on the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals for many years, and ultimately, seek election to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Because my Dad is really about one thing, above all else — helping people.
It sounds so deceptively simple doesn’t it? Helping people. But, at its toughest, “helping people” is messy, frustrating, complex, and often exhausting. Not for Dad. He always has and always will take that 6’3” frame and those size 14 feet and wade barefoot into the swirling waters of an issue because someone (or many someones) need help. And he does it with the utmost patience and grace.
For a Leo (an astrological sign we share, but that clearly manifested in me with the full attendant lack of patience!), he is so incredibly patient with people. He works tirelessly to tease out the real problem from the red herring and then, deliberately, surgically, sets about finding a way to help the person(s) in need. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the problem is. His calling is to find a way to help and make it better. His ability to keep things light even in the face of tough issues is manifested through a legendary ability to pun. A regular conversation at Sunday brunch when we are eating eggs goes something like this:
“This is eggs-actly what I felt like having this morning!”
“You crack me up!”
“How about shelling out more of those eggs?”
You get the picture.
It wasn’t necessarily easy growing up with a dad in politics. His evenings and weekends were devoted to endless community meetings. We very rarely had dinner together which is why Sunday brunch was such a special meal for our family. Yet, his commitment to helping others 24/7/365 was the single, clearest life lesson to me in choosing a life’s journey with the compass of helping others.
I always love to hear a parent proudly brag about the accomplishments of a daughter or son. In this case, the tables are reversed as I publicly and loudly proclaim how incredibly proud this daughter is of her Dad – his empathy for others, his gift of bringing people together and finding win-win solutions to difficult problems, his accomplishments over the years to make Mount Vernon the best district in Fairfax County, and, most importantly, for being himself all the way.
My Dad as the living embodiment of the quote from Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet’s:
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
That’s my Dad. And I am so proud of him.