In just the last week we’ve seen a liberal political activist open fire on Republican Congressmen, riots erupt after a jury acquit a police officer of all responsibility for the shooting of a cooperative and obliging black man named Philando Castile, and increasing speculation about an investigation into whether our President obstructed justice.
Americans are polarized, divided, and angry to the point that any sane person might conclude that it’s all over for America – that the corruption of Washington has gone viral and the character of our people is infected. But I’m not convinced.
Because we don’t derive our public character from political conventions. We get it from Hello Kitty. Here’s what I mean. Like many parents, every night I go in to our three kids’ rooms and say their prayers with them. Recently, as we said “Amen,” my 7-year-old daughter grabbed my arm and said, “Daddy will you lay with me for a few minutes before you go?” That’s about the easiest question in the world to answer.
As she snuggled up on my shoulder, she glanced at her Hello Kitty wall stickers and asked in a giddy voice if I would tell her a story about Hello Kitty meeting Rapunzel. I laughed and said, “Why are you so excited about that?” She answered, “Just cause I love them. And you. And I’m glad you’re here with me.”
Rest assured, this story isn’t trying to elicit any adulation – there are far better dads out there than me. And I’m not attempting to play on anybody’s emotions. My point is that as I laid there telling the dumbest story imaginable about Hello Kitty getting tangled up in Rapunzel’s hair while she was looking for a bag of chips at Walmart, and Addie laughed, I realized how important those moments were for my daughter, for me, and yes for our civilization.
For her? Statistics and sociological research can tell you all they want about the importance of a Dad in a child’s life. They can tell you how healthy relationships with Dad can keep a kid away from drugs, sexual experimentation, abusive relationships, dropping out of school, gangs, and about every dangerous behavior conceivable. And while all that is very true, there’s something more to it. The look on my daughter’s face as she slipped into sleep regaled by stories of cartoon princesses said it all: dads matter.
For me? It re-emphasized in a million different giggles how my greatest responsibility is to love that little girl, to teach her, to train her, hold her and guide her towards the God who made her and loves her infinitely more than I can even imagine. It refocused my often-skewed perception of where my greatest influence is, and how I can make the world a better place. It doesn’t happen through Facebook posts, Twitter comments, speeches I give or columns I write. It happens every day and every night with things as simple as bedtime stories.
For our civilization? Our schools can teach good civic behavior, communities can model the values they prefer, and our politicians can legislate commendation for moral and punishment for immoral conduct. But those won’t save the collapsing character of our world. To do that, I’ve never been more convinced it starts with Hello Kitty.