For the past 4 days my wife and I have been wandering the mountains of Utah in 1847 pioneer clothing re-enacting the legendary Mormon Pioneer crossing of 175 years past.
Pushing and pulling a wooden handcart filled with our belongings, up a trail too rocky to push anything, through a river, and more dust than a pig would ever want to roll in, we have just made a pilgrimage of our descendant’s legacies and religious beliefs in order to consider the struggles they endured and reaffirming our faith in the the future.
Of course, we had REI shoes, ice blocks placed daily in our coolers of Gatorade, and Oakley sunglasses…new world luxuries mixed with old world legacies, the stuff of legend, as we walked, sang hymns, shared pioneer stories, and toiled in the scorching sun under the banner of gratitude for the beauty of the earth, mountains, and glory to God.
My wife & I were not alone, and perhaps in the future I’ll write more extensively about this semi-crazy, yet powerfully reaffirming experience we go through every 4 years, after prepping for most of a year, as we were joined by some 600 others in our community to walk along with us, making it happen as a team, a miracle in this modern-day entitlement era as we had no phones, updates on sports scores, or social media comparisons, instead working together as strangers to become a family and have a spiritual experience enhanced by our physical endurance.
Tami & I were chosen to be one of the couples lucky enough to be called as “Trek Ma & Pa”. We were assigned 8 children, most of whom we had never met, nor had they heard of us. Next we were packing up our handcart, putting sunscreen on their soon to be sunburnt faces, checking their feet for blisters, asking their names, discovering their strengths, and caring for each child as if our own.
To be called as a “Pa” is a great honor. Strangers from families of our own belief and faith trusting that their child will return safely home after an odyssey that is a rite of passage for any youth of our religious affiliation is a most daunting ask. Candidly, there are some youth you just outright know you’re not going to easily connect with, and can tell do not want to be there, while others make the job easy and are pleasant, helpful, and ready to go all-in.
The experience always humbles me, as I also entrust my children to other Ma’s & Pa’s, hoping my children will connect, and knowing these surrogate parents will have influence over my earthly stewardship in a connection I will never have with my own.
If you believe in God, as I do, you may also refer to this great Being as Heavenly Father. I have always found it encouraging that He prefers this as the title by which we call Him: Father.
Whether you are a father of children, or have had the chance to serve in a fatherly role, such as scoutmaster, big brother, uncle, teacher, coach, or other, then you know the Promise of The Father is to lead by example, and follow the lead of the child, as they teach us even better how to raise and inspire them than we can teach, most of the time.
We had 3 young women and 5 young men in our Trek Family, between the ages of 14-18.
The girls watched closely my amazing wife, and the boys did as well. Thankfully they observed her, because there is no one better at being a Ma than Tami. That is a fact.
But I noticed the boys really, I mean really, watched Pa.
How did I respond when I couldn’t tie down the straps perfectly and things weren’t easy?
How did I react when a situation wasn’t ideal?
How did I respond to their humor, choice of words, actions?
How did I keep my attitude when we knew we could run things better than had been planned and the boys were encouraging a little positive rebellion to do things our way?
I found it fascinating to realize how intently they were watching their surrogate Pa.
Did I nail the gig? Was I the greatest Pa of all-time? Not even close. I looked around and saw men of such a higher caliber than me that I often suggested the boys look over my shoulder to see how savvy others were, while I was tutored as well.
I have learned 3 things about being a good dad in this life which are The Promise of The Dad:
I can say all the right stuff, I can do all good things, but without the following I will not be a good Pa:
- Hypocrisy of any little kind kills every great thing you’ll ever do
- Actions are louder than words every time
- “The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.”
~ Father Theodore Hesburgh
To be a Father is the greatest gift of my life.
My children bring me the grandest of grief and then the most incredible joys, and then the circle repeats, but seems to be outweighed by happiness through and through.
If The One upstairs prefers the title of Father, then of course this is what I strive for, and live for, as well.
To be a Pa, Dad, Father, there is no greater calling, no higher joy.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the Fathers out there, Grandfathers, Fathers-In-Law, Father Figures, and Leaders who Keep The Promise to do our best to raise the next generation to be a little better than we were. After this experience of Trek I can tell you this about the children up and coming in our world: Those who are seeking to live a good and purposeful life, making and keeping commitments and covenants, and striving to live The Promise, make me certain the future is filled with a next and even greater level of Promise.
~ Jason Hewlett
Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker
- Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Promise Legacy Project Coach
- World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to Create Legendary Leadership through the Power of Commitment
- Author of “The Promise To The One”