Edward’s toast for his dad was presented in that perfect way that left everyone in tears. This was the perfect speech that came after the perfect trip celebrating his dad’s seventy fifth birthday all of which was paid for by Edward because Edward was rich… like really rich… like really, really rich. Even more, Edward had that exciting underdog story where he was able to go from very little to being a famous movie star. Using his connections and assistants, he surprised the thirty people there with this trip to an exclusive resort in Hawaii; that’s the kind of friend you want. Everyone his dad could’ve wished for was there; it was really amazing, like really, really amazing, and Edward’s brother Steve, who was not a famous movie star and terrible at giving speeches haaaated it, like haaaaated it. Unlike Edward, Steve was not rich. He was like really, really not rich. He wasn’t even policeman or school principal rich. He was… typical. Even Steve’s name was boring: Steve, Boring Steve. Following the typical life, Steve was married to a woman who was… typical and her name? Jen, also boring. Boring Steve and boring Jen had struggled to have kids for several years now without any luck. His brother, Edward, however, had five kids, and unlike most famous rich people who would have at least the same number of ex wives, he had only had one wife and she was amazing in every way. The worst part of all of this for Steve was Edward was, and always had been, a good guy. At least if Edward was a jerk Steve could take consolation knowing he hated him for a good reason, but this was simply a case of petty jealousy and feeling inferior. Steve hated not being able to value his brother and his accomplishments, but it was just too hard for Steve to like himself when his brother was so much better than him.
After Edward’s perfect speech, boring Steve snuck away and went down to the beach to clear his head. After a few minutes alone he saw his dad was just up the beach by himself, so he walked over; not because he wanted to be social, but because he felt obligated. When Steve got to his dad, Steve said “Hey,” to which his dad said “Hey.” Even Steve’s conversations were boring. Steve then stepped it up a bit and asked, “How’s it going?” and his dad said “Good, you?” and Steve said, “Good, you?” and Steve’s dad said “Good, you?” and Steve said “Good… you?” Steve’s boringness and social awkwardness came naturally.
After a few minutes of silently staring at the water, Steve’s dad started speaking: “It’s pretty amazing here.”
“Yeah” said Steve.
“The trip itself is pretty amazing,”
“Yeah,” said Steve.
“Your brother is really impressive,”
“Yeah,” said Steve.
“Sucks, doesn’t it?”
“W…what?” Steve was thrown off.
His dad then added, “This whole thing really sucks.”
Steve not knowing how to respond said, “Yeah?”
His dad continued, “I remember the first time your brother was paid a million dollars. It was bittersweet. Part of me couldn’t be more excited for him, and the other part of me was really sad because at that moment I knew I would never be able to buy him anything again that was of any real value. Having your son make a million dollars is incredible in one way but kills the joy a dad gets from being able to provide for his child. From that day on I knew your brother didn’t really need me anymore. I know he enjoys being around me, but being a provider and doing things for people are the way I like to say I love you, and I don’t get that with him anymore. All I can do is say thank you to him for the stuff he buys me and all of it is stuff I was fine without.”
Still not sure what to say, Steve said, “Uhhhhhhhh.” At least he tried. His dad soon started talking again to help him out.
“One day when you have kids of your own, you’ll realize there is one thing that gives you a joy unlike anything else: Seeing your baby smile. A baby smiling has this way of warming your heart, and is the best thing in the world. At least that’s what I thought until I saw you smile at me because of something I did. A baby smile is amazing, but a baby smiling at you for something you did? That… that is the best thing you’ll ever experience. From that moment a parent is hooked and will do anything to see their child smile again. They’ll make stupid faces and noises; they’ll watch Elmo or the Wiggles until you want to blow your brains out. But now all I can do to see your brother smile is stay out of his way and watch from a distance. You have no idea how much I miss being able to make him smile from something I did. I know it must be hard for you seeing your brother do so many big things and be so successful, but I hope you also know how much it means to me that you’re still… normal. I can still make you smile from something I did for you.”
And Steve said “Uhhhhhhh.”
This time his dad didn’t interrupt him, he just stood staring at the water while Steve said “Uhhhhhhh.” Steve was in shock. What’s going on? Edward was the successful one. Edward was the one his dad should be happier with because of all he’s done and owns. After a minute of uhhing, Steve blurted: “But I’m boring! I’m nothing special! What’s good about that?”
Looking out at the water his dad quietly said, “No child is ordinary to their parent. You and your brother are part of me. One day you’ll understand.” Steve’s dad then turned and looking directly into Steve’s eyes said, “The greatest gift a child can give his parent isn’t a trip, a speech, or even money. The best gift a child can give his parent is to be happy; to find true contentment and peace with who they are and what they’ve become. A parent wants their children to love themselves as much as the parent loves them, and that’s best seen in a smile.” Just then Steve burst into tears and his dad reached out and put his arms around him. In that moment every fear and every bit of jealousy Steve had ever felt for his brother vanished and was replaced by a sense of peace. For the first time in his life Steve accepted the idea that he didn’t need to earn his dad’s love because his dad already loved him as much as a dad could. He didn’t have to compete with his brother or do anything grand. All he needed to do to make his dad happy was to be happy himself. And while he was thinking this, with tears flowing down his face, his dad joked, “I say I want you to be happy and you start crying? You never were good at doing what you were told… but if you can’t smile, I can settle for tears and a hug. Besides getting your boogers on my shirt reminds me of when you were a kid. Anyone else’s boogers would be disgusting; yours? I can kind of enjoy.” And as his dad joked Steve began to laugh and the two of them felt more joy and connection than they had ever remembered.
The best gift Steve’s dad received that birthday wasn’t the perfect speech or the expensive trip; it was seeing his so called boring son laugh and be happy because of something he did.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people