Throughout my life, my mother was one of my biggest fans and supporters. During the last decade, she has been the most spirited supporter of Be There Dad. She has distributed our books and told more people about our organization than most folks.
For all its years, she praised Be There Dad for our vision, our efforts, and our accomplishments. Based on pictures, anecdotes and articles, from her apartment in Florida, she came to “know” and love our dads in Charlotte.
In December, my mother succumbed to a long battle with cancer and left us for a place we call Heaven. Before she left, she and I had many meaningful conversations about life and why we are each here on this earth. We agreed the one thing we all have in common is that we are called to use the unique gifts and talents we possess to love our neighbors. Throughout her life my mother was a “giver” in her own unique way – as a stay-at-home mom of three boys, wife, grandmother, neighbor and friend. An accomplished baker, throughout her life she frequently passed her love to others through cakes, cookies and pies. Along with a smile and a kind word, she delighted many people by adding a little sweetness to their lives. Having come from a humble upbringing, when there was often little to give, she taught me that caring for others is mostly just about “being there”. Sound familiar?
Be There Dad has always asked, “What did your Dad teach you?” That question is a reminder that the principles of fatherhood are passed down from generation to generation. Fatherhood did not start with the current generation, and it will not end here either. Alex Haley told us, “In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to the past, a bridge to our future.” Moreover, while we often speak of how our fathers influenced us, we have always held our mothers in high esteem as well. Dads have learned from their own mothers and the mothers of their children and become better. In recognition of this concept, I intentionally dedicated my book, Be There Dad to both my dad and my mother, recognizing that her, “support, understanding and love encouraged both my father and me to become the dads we were meant to be. We did not get there by ourselves.” My mother’s gift was truly the power of presence. While my dad was the inspiration for Be There Dad; my mom challenged us to carry on with our vision and make the world a better place.
Roots and Wings
My mother believed that parents’ purpose is to teach our children so that they can find their unique promise. Parents give their children identity, confidence and courage. A cross stitch in her home said, “The two most important things a mother can give her children are roots and wings”. Along with my dad, she filled my backpack so I was ready to take wing when the time came. But she never let me forget where I came from. I always knew there was a place for me in her home and her heart. I have tried my best to fulfill those same promises to my children. Through Be There Dad we encourage and enable other dads to do the same.
Treasures from Heaven
Encouraging me to pursue her challenge of caring and giving, she and I agreed to make a donation to Be There Dad. Those funds will initially establish the Mary Ann Usher “Treasures from Heaven” Grant as a living memorial to her spirit and a reminder to continue the lessons she taught. Each year, the grant will donate funds to support the power of presence (to schools, dads, moms, teachers, staff or even students). Distribution will be made on a discretionary basis consistent with the wishes of Mrs. Usher to benefit deserving children regardless of their circumstances.
So, for years to come her legacy and influence will live on. Perhaps the funds will be used to purchase the brightly colored tee shirts that dads wear to inspire school loyalty and security. Perhaps they will be used to rent movies and projectors for movie nights when families from across the county can come together. Perhaps they will be used to purchase donuts, coffee, and juice for donuts with dads. Maybe they will underwrite the fees for a student’s participation in an extracurricular activity. Recipients will be able to use the funds to “run to daylight” – spending them in any way that will contribute to the involvement of dads and the support of children to fulfill their promise. However they are used, they will forever remind us of the treasure that has been entrusted to us by my mother and our responsibility to guard it.