An Excerpt from the book, God Has Smiled On Me: A Tribute to a Black Father who Stayed and a Tribute to all Black Fathers who Stay, by Daniel Whyte III
A legacy of true salvation and a changed life. The uncanny ability to rise above average people and do extraordinary things without losing the common, down-home touch. The contentment gene. The knowledge of how to be a great father.
My dad's legacy is four-fold:
A Legacy of True Salvation and a Changed Life
I jokingly say sometimes, that outside of myself, I know of only one person in my family who truly got born again, and that person is my dad, Daniel White, Jr. I say that because when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour his life changed dramatically. The Kools cigarettes that I mentioned earlier were gone, never to be seen again. Even though he drank a lite wine product every now and then, in moderation, the hard liquor days were never seen again. But the biggest proof of his true conversion to Christ was the fact that he showed genuine love to all people. It didn't matter who you were. My dad was not a respector of persons. He was incapable of treating a dignitary differently than he would treat a derelict. When he would drive, ever so slowly down the street, everyone got a wave, a honk of the horn, or a loud "alright now."
As you will see in the interview that I conducted across the kitchen table in his home, sometime before he died, my dad didn't attend his father's funeral, and interestingly, I didn't attend my father's funeral either. Neither have I ever shed a tear over my dad's death, because I knew that my dad was truly born again, and I have felt closer to him since his death than while he was living. I know for a fact that I will see him, face to face again, not too many days from now.
The Uncanny Ability to Rise Above Average People and Do Extraordinary Things Without Losing the Common, Down-Home Touch
"If you look behind you and nobody is following you, then you are not a leader."
My dad was a natural born leader, but, if you had met him, you would have never known he was a leader for these three reasons:
1. He never tried to be a leader.
2. He never pushed himself forward.
3. He never acted as though he was any different than the people who followed him.
Yet, when my father arrived on the scene, people looked to him as a leader, and people followed him because they knew he loved them with a genuine heart.
Before having Gospel shows on television was popular, particularly for black folk, my dad was on television every Sunday for years. Yet, when you saw him on the street, he was dressed in regular clothes, because he was also a janitor at the television station where his show was aired. And, unlike the preachers of today, he did not feel as though he had to drive a Cadillac or Lincoln to be somebody. He probably felt as though it would cause him to lose the common touch. This leads me to my next point.
The Contentment Gene
The third part of the legacy my dad left behind from his life is what I humorously oftentimes share with my wife and children, is something I call "the cheap gene." I am dubbing it here, for the book's sake, "the contentment gene," because my dad was not a cheap person, but what I am talking about here is my dad's penchant for and pleasure in those things that were not name brand and those things that were simple and/or old. He may have done some of this out of necessity, but I firmly believe that my dad got a secret thrill out of bringing home off brand sodas that just said "Cola" on the label. This is intriguing to me for two reasons: (1) my mother is the total opposite in that she loved the finer things of life and (2) the second reason is because this is one of the few things I have naturally taken after my dad. Thankfully, I can buy Charmin toilet paper for my family of nine if I wanted to, but like my dad, I get a secret thrill out of buying six rolls of toilet paper for $1.00 at Dollar General. I cannot explain why, but I enjoy getting things on the cheap like that. I guess I get the feeling I am getting over or something.
The Knowledge of How to Be a Great Father
Many people do not realize this, but God gives us parents so that we can learn from them in two ways--positively and negatively. The plan is, by doing so, a child can become a better person and a better parent, (because no parent is perfect) and thus raise up a better generation.
Even though I may not be great in every area of my life, my wife and children will tell you that I am a great father. I thank the Lord for that, but I owe my dad some credit as well. The reason is because I have learned from his life in a positive way and I have also learned from his life in a negative way. This is why it is important for a father to stay, even if he feels as though he is not being the best father he can be.
Positively: Like my dad, I really love my children. Not only did I learn this from my dad by his example, but this is also one of the few things that I naturally take after my father. I have a God-given love for my children, and because of that I have a great rapport with my children and always have since their birth. Of course, this is a gift from God.
Negatively: Unlike my dad, I learned negatively that love is to be expressed fully and balanced. In other words, love is to be expressed by a pat on the back when a child does well and a slap on the behind when a child does wrong.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, one of the mistakes my dad made was that he "loved us too much." He simply did not understand that love is expressed in many different ways. Because of this lack of understanding or maybe choosing not to accept this truth, he and my mother had constant marital problems because he would never rebuke her disrespect of him. I remember him saying to me on more than one occasion, "Danny, I do not want to say anything because I want to keep the peace." Well, I negatively learned from that that if a man can't say what he needs to say in his own house to have true peace, then he nor his family will have peace at all. Therefore, I practice the principle that, if there is not going to be any peace in the house because I have to say some things my wife or my teenagers do not like--let there be no peace. Fathers, you don't have real peace anyway, if you can't speak your piece. I have never subscribed to the idea that "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." In my house, I know that if we don't all do what we are supposed to do the Bible way, ain't nobody going to be happy. King David said in Psalm 120:7: "I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war."
Yes, we need to lovingly encourage our children with a pat on the back, and I do that all of the time, but we also need to lovingly give them a smack on the behind when they are disobedient. What has happened in our society, and particularly in the black community, is that black men have abdicated their role as disciplinarians of their children and have left it to the mothers. I am here to tell you that most mothers cannot chastise a boy like a man can. I must say here, as a credit to my mother and to so many other women, who knew the importance of chastisement, that they did the job that oftentimes the father should have done, of being the disciplinarian, and using corporal punishment to chastise the children.
Frankly, I cannot remember my dad cracking down on me other than one time when I was in the bathroom getting myself hooked up to go out to the club, and I was talking back to my dad about something we disagreed on regarding the use of one of the cars or something like that, and before I knew it, he broke down a locked bathroom door to get to me. And even then, he didn't hit me, but he sure did scare the hell out of me. Other than that, I do not remember my dad whipping me or cracking down on me like my mother did. I am one of the millions who say: I wish my dad had given me more whippings. The truth is, I needed them. And folks, you know and I know that one of the reasons our children are acting as crazy as they are acting today, is because the father is not showing the full spectrum of love.
My father was not a perfect man, and he made some mistakes, but his legacy endures in the way he strived to live a good life, in the way he led and loved people, in what I learned from him about being content with the simple things of life, and in what I learned from him about how to be a great father.