Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lenses for Life

When the proof came I could not put it down. I was holding in my hands the result of an intensive labor of love. Twenty years of labor to be exact. Well, there was a several years hiatus in there somewhere. The labor slowed way down when I began ordained ministry full time in 1996 and then it came to a painful screeching halt when Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease in 1999. We lost him in 2006. But the labor began again in earnest in the spring of 2009 when I began painting his story and preparing to travel to the places he was held prisoner in the Philippine Islands and Japan during WWII, which I did in February through April 2010. From fall 2009 until Spring 2011 almost every spare minute was taken up in writing and rewriting the story. It consumed me.

It started out as an attempt to record my father’s WWII POW story for the sake of our family. I did not want it to be forgotten. It ended up a very personal journey. As I studied, and read, and traveled, and reflected, it became increasingly apparent just how much my father’s experience had shaped me. So much of who I am and what I do echoes my father’s life.

I was not much interested in the kitchen or cooking. I was fascinated with tools and spent most of my time in the garage or outside with my father. I knew what a crescent wrench was long before I knew what a spatula was. I crawled up on the fender of the car and watched my father fix engines. I loved to be with him and I loved to be up high so I was driving nails on the roof long before I ever baked my first cake. To this day I do not know if my attraction was primarily to be with my dad wherever he was or if it was to mechanical and outdoor tasks. I just know that I was with him a lot and I learned so many practical skills. What I did not realize until much later in life was that I also acquired my worldview from him. I saw the world through the lenses my father wore—not physical lenses, but the lenses of his experience as a young man captured and made a prisoner of war just after his 21st birthday. He suffered and survived three and a half years of deprivation and unspeakable brutality.

Yet, the lenses my father gave me allowed me to see a world filled with possibilities rather than a world filled with obstacles. Somehow, though poor, and small, and average in almost every way, my father helped me see a world where I could do anything I set my heart and mind to do. The lenses my father gave me allowed me to smile through life’s ups and downs. He saw the good in everything and everyone. My father helped me to see faith in God as the best lense of all to see the world and others clearly. My worldview was shaped by a man who had survived unspeakable brutality and had escaped death over and over again as a result of these lenses. I learned to see the world and myself through them and as a result am an optimistic, determined (stubborn?), hopeful, God-dependant person.

The book about my father’s story and how it shaped me is available on Amazon (link below) in black and white ($14.99) and a color edition ($30.00). It is a very personal story, but it is also a national story. Men like my father who survived and came home from WWII continued to sacrifice and serve in order to build the life and nation that subsequent generations often take for granted. When my copy of the final book arrives I think I will not be able to put it down. I think I will sleep with it. It is a labor of love. I hope all who read it will think about those who have positively shaped their own lives—given them lenses with which to see the world and themselves as filled with possibilities, full of goodness, and because of faith, full of hope.

When I blogged about my personal journey discovering how much my father’s experienced shaped me, friends who read it encouraged me to write it for a wider audience. I have. If you or someone you know are part of that wider audience who might benefit from a read you can order it from Amazon.



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