Category: Fathers

Lessons From Kobe

Lessons From Kobe

One week ago we were stunned by the news that NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in California. Since then we have seen an outpouring of grief and accolades on a scale rarely seen:

  • Kobe’s death has been mourned by millions around the globe
  • Superstars in all sports have been reduced to tears as they’ve described their loss
  • Some, like Shaquille O’Neal who had years-long tension in his relationship with Kobe, have committed themselves to changing their lives
  • Perhaps all of us have felt some level of stunned grief

Perhaps we’ve also felt a sense of mixed emotions at the adulation Kobe has received. Yes, we know he was a talented basketball player; but we can’t forget the incident in Colorado when he was accused of assaulting a young woman.

As I’ve read blogs and articles, listened to broadcasts and paid attention to my own reactions, I wonder, Why the overwhelming grief, and why mixed emotions? Here are my thoughts:

1. He was a living legend.

For those under age 35, there’s a very strong likelihood that he was the embodiment of a living basketball legend.

  • For those a little older it’s Magic and Larry.
  • For those a little older, it’s MJ and Dr. J.
  • For those a little older still, it was Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson.
  • And for some who can’t remember…it was Jerry West or Bob Cousy.

For a whole current generation, full of energy and dreams, Kobe was a hero in the flesh. (And of course, LeBron James is a part of that conversation, too). That’s one reason the grief has been so enormous. Living legends are supposed to be living.

2. His accomplishments are simply astounding. Kobe was:

  • One of the first to sign a pro contract right out of high school
  • 5 time NBA champ
  • 2 time NBA finals MVP
  • 18 time All-star
  • 4 time All-star game MVP
  • 2 time Olympic gold medalist

The list goes on. Most agree Kobe was absolutely one of the Top 10 most accomplished basketball players ever. It’s quite likely many would agree he’s in the Top 5. The world is grieving the loss of a stunningly accomplished athlete.

3. For many he became a villain. For them Kobe represented all that is wrong with prima-donna athletes who force themselves on others and expect special privileges of exoneration. An honest appraisal of his life requires us to acknowledge that:

  • He was accused of rape by a 19 year-old hotel worker in Eagle, CO
  • She eventually refused to testify and the case was dropped
  • He did however agree to a plea deal in a civil suit, and publicly apologized
  • Many NBA fans, and certainly almost all Denver Nuggets fans, never forgave him. For the remainder of his career, the Denver Pepsi Center was filled with boos and jeers every time Kobe touched the ball.

As a result, for many he remained a permanent, infamous, unforgivable villain.

4. His focus after basketball has without any question been his family, especially his four girls. Whatever one’s opinion of Kobe the opponent, or the abuser, there is no denying he restored his marriage, and along with a supremely forgiving wife, turned much of his attention to his daughters:

  • He started and ran the Mamba Sports Academy to teach girls basketball. He and Gianna had hopes that she might play for U. of Conn some day.
  • He was on a flight to oversee an event at that academy when the helicopter crashed into a hill in the fog.
  • Fathers across the globe have posted on #girldad over 175,000 time to express their respect for Kobe and their commitment to their daughters. The most repeated word: Love
  • As the proud father and father-in-law of two wonderful women and the grandfather of 5 girls I can relate.

Countless athletes, bloggers, broadcasters and journalists have vouched for the visible impact Kobe made on them as they watched his undeniable dedication and love toward his girls.

It makes me wonder, could there be a connection between his shameful disrespect of a young woman in 2003 and his admirable respect for his daughters in 2020? What do you think?

5. Lastly, perhaps the most subtle, but deepest reason for the outpouring of grief and admiration is, his story is like all of ours…just vastly more pronounced and evident. It looks like redemption to me:

  • Like Kobe, we all have God-given, innate talents that we can hardly take credit for. We should gratefully acknowledge, embrace and deploy them.
  • Like him, we have accomplishments for which we are known. Just vastly more unnoticed.
  • Like him, we are engaged in a career, vastly less profitable, that results in provision and impact. Whatever the scale of ours, there is dignity in our work.
  • Like him, every one of us has committed self-serving, other-harming acts of outright sin. Ours have just been vastly less publicized.

Jesus said to pious men who would stone a sinful woman, “Whichever of you is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8) They had enough sense to turn around and slink away, or just run. We should have the same reaction whenever we get in a pious, judgmental mood toward others.

Jesus was explicitly clear about how he felt about those who would point out a speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye, while ignoring the plank in their own. The word he used was “hypocrite.” (Matt. 7)

In the clarifying light of God’s righteousness none of us has the slightest excuse for standing in judgment of others. Especially when it seems evident that the other has experienced a transformative change in their priorities and behavior.

As I watch and read I think these are the reasons behind the almost unparalleled grief we have seen over Kobe’s death:

1. For a whole generation he was a living legend.

2. His accomplishments are simply astounding.

3. For many he became an infamous villain.

4. He directed exceptional love toward the women of his family.

5. His story is wounded just like ours. God redeems broken stories.

One of the most magnificent attributes of God’s nature, as illustrated by Jesus in his description of The Prodigal’s father, is his unlimited capacity to forgive and redeem the worst acts of our lives.

I thank God that he has done that for me. Perhaps he’s done that for you. I just wonder if he did the same for Kobe.

To me, his story looks like redemption.

Honesty and Hope

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent Gillette commercial about men being the best they can be. The phrase “the best a man can get” took me back to hazy “wonder years” when I wondered when I might need to shave anything at all.

As I watched the clip, it evoked similar beneath-the-surface feelings: recognition, conviction, inspiration and commitment. So I was surprised to hear and read that not everyone had the same positive impression of the clip as I did. In fact, I saw through one source that reactions against the commercial were 4:1 versus those that saw it as positive.

Honesty and Hope
Your Gift to Your (Grand)Father

Your Gift to Your (Grand)Father

I was moved by the photography and message of this clip. It’s less than 3 minutes and definitely worth a look.

With Father’s Day right around the corner you may already be thinking of what you might want to say to your dad or grandfather. There’s a good chance your thoughts are also mixed with memories of regret or disappointment. I know how that feels.

I want to encourage you not to let past pain or current awkwardness keep you from saying what your heart leads you to say. Your words spoken to a man who quite possibly wrestles with growing questions of significance due to age, remorse, loss or failure can truly be a life-giving gift. Your words matter.

  • “Dad, thank you for providing for us.”
  • “Grandpa, thank you for paying attention to me.”
  • “I’m grateful for you.”
  • “Thank you for your patience.”
  • “I’d like to stay in touch more.”
  • “Can I come visit? When can you visit us?”
  • “I actually thank God for you.”
  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “I love you.”

On this Father’s Day take one intentional, courageous, manly step to let a key man in your life know he still matters. You won’t regret it.



Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Rite of Passage. Western culture largely views these as age-based rights young adults automatically deserve once they hit a certain date. Depending on local laws 18 or 21-year olds are allowed to consume tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and pornography; they can now purchase weapons and ammunition. In most cases, this “right” is granted regardless of whether youths have benefited from any guidance in the inherent dangers of these practices nor any training in discernment in their use.

High school sports team and college fraternity hazing rituals involving sexual abuse, or deadly alcohol over-consumption, as we saw this week at Penn State and in 2013 at my own alma mater, Northern Illinois University, confirm the consequences of the absence of effective guidance in rites of passage.

Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?
At Last!

At Last!

“What was the highlight of 2016 for you?” our Christmas party host asked around the dinner table. Beryl and I had the same responses, “First, the birth of 5th granddaughter, Gemma. Very close after that…the Cubs winning the World Series!!”

“Really?” some asked. “A sports event was a highlight?” Clearly, they were not aware of the cosmic significance of the event. At least not of its impact on the Glass clan. Why did this rank as a highlight of the year? Because it was of far more significance than just another sports event. For these three reasons:

Family Tradition Passed On

My dad, born in 1922 on the South Side of Chicago, staunch White Sox territory, was a rabid lifetime Cubs fan. He lived 90 years and never saw them win the Series. That’s a sports drought. Nevertheless, my siblings and I all picked up Cub fever from my dad. Of course, I passed the same affliction on to my kids. Thankfully, our son- and daughter-in-law have followed suit.

I fell in love with the North Siders in 1969; the year the Cubs put their entire infield into the All-star Game. The game roster didn’t allow additional room for two future Cub Hall of Famers. In the middle of August they had a 9 game division lead over the New York Mets. No matter; by the end of the season, they lost by 8 games.

So, for our family to see the Cubs actually in the series, then win it, was stupendously historic. Millions of Cub fans all over the world felt the same way. Like them, we mourned the lives of loved ones, in our case my dad, that had been lost before they ever saw a Series win. And like many thousands in the vicinity of Wrigley Field, my two sons, Alec and Conor, wrote their names and memories in chalk on the brick wall of the stadium set aside for that significant purpose. Conor wrote: “Make someday today.” Alec quoted my dad’s favorite cheer: “’Atta way!” Family tradition passed on.

Hope Fulfilled

By now many readers know the details of the years of futility for the Cubs. But for the unaware, a quick summary: the last time the Cubs had even been in the Series was 1945. The last time they won it was 1908; the longest span between championships of any team in major league sports, any sport.

With horrifically painful playoff failures in 1984 and again in 2003 the expectation, or at least nauseating fear, of failure hovered over every Cub fan in these playoffs.

This time, when the Cubs fell behind Cleveland 1-3 in series wins, the pit in every Cub fan stomach ran deep. When in the final game the Cubs blew 5-1 and then 6-3 leads, as Cleveland tied it up, every Cub fan silently had the thought, “Oh, so this is how they lose it this time. This will be the most painful story.”

So for the Cubs to come back from a rain delay, that visibly sapped the enormous amount of momentum Cleveland had built, to win in extra innings, the explosion of hope fulfilled in the hearts of Cub Nation was indescribable.

Unbridled Joy in Community

Long before the Cubs made it to the series, our family decided that if they did make it we’d all head to Chicago to watch the games together. We savored every game with our kids and granddaughters.

Alec, Conor and I decided to watch the final game (played in Cleveland), come what may, at a sports bar three blocks south of Wrigley Field: Sheffield’s. We were in the neighborhood long before the pub opened, soaking in the once-in-a-lifetime feel of electricity in the whole area.

We walked into Sheffield’s as they opened at 11, and waited endlessly (there are only so many chips, sandwiches, and beverages you can consume in one setting; we found the limit) for the 7:00 game time.

When Cubs’ lead-off batter, Dexter Fowler, hit a deep fly against the Indian’s pitcher, who had totally dominated the Cubs twice already in the series, Cub fans battled split-second emotions of “Holy cow, this can’t be…can it?!”…wait for it…“It is! It is! It’s a home run!”

Chaos ensued. (Watch it here.) That one stroke indicated that the summit of what seemed like a virtually insurmountable mountain a few days before, and even at the start of that last game, might actually be in sight.

When Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant, threw the final out in the 10th inning and the game was won, Sheffield’s exploded in complete pandemonium. The three of us screamed, hugged and bounced for an unknown length of time. We high-fived countless new best friends.

Then we joined the massive throng filling the streets heading to the Wrigley shrine as if on a spiritual quest. I don’t know the official number in the streets, but it was the largest crowd I’d ever been in. It was certainly hundreds of thousands, or more.

The utter exuberance and camaraderie shared by complete strangers, and even by the 4000 police in the streets, was simply indescribable. Community, joy, transcendence.

It may have been just a sports event to many people. It went far beyond that for the Glass Family. No doubt about it, it was a highlight of the year. In fact, it was a highlight of a lifetime.

I just wish Dad could have been there.


Dads Matter; Piece by Piece

Dads Matter; Piece by Piece

clarkson husbandMedia confession: Beryl and I watch American Idol regularly. Because it often actually moves us.

Sometimes the performances are lukewarm; every now and then they are jaw-dropping. Recently, Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 winner, told a story through song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks—and those of the judges and many in the audience.

We intuitively know dads matter, but in our dramatically changing family culture that often questions the value of fathers, we sometimes need a reminder. Kelly gave us a jaw-dropping one.

Her song, Piece by Piece, compares her experience with a father who disappeared when she was a young girl, to her husband who is a present, loving father to her kids. “He filled the holes you burned in me when I was 6 years old…He restored my faith that a man could be kind, and that a father could stay.”

Every small step of engagement he makes with her, her daughter and her soon-to-be born son, instills in them a sense of significance and safety. One day, one decision at a time.

If you’re a dad, you can instill that same significance in your kids, too. Because you matter. Piece by piece.

(Dads of daughters, please read this: Milestones on Your Journey with Your Daughter. Dads of sons, read this: How to Get to Your Son’s Heart.)


Dads Still Matter

A friend in the Chicago suburbs sent me this notice today from the owner of a well-known business in that area: “I am writing to let you all know about the passing of my father. In this modern age where men are often the punch line in a bad joke, I’m here to tell you […]

Saying Goodbye to Parents, Part VI (Oh, Craig. Don’t Do That.)

Saying Goodbye to Parents, Part VI (Oh, Craig. Don’t Do That.)

Dad, me and Alec
Dad, me and Alec in Northern Ireland

My mother passed away in February, 2010, and my father in October, 2012, so you might think I’m done thinking about saying Goodbye to them. No, their memory and their touch on my life lingers. I’m reminded of them regularly. They were an integral part of my life for 57 years; it’s not surprising that it takes time to get used to their absence. (Click here to see my last post about Saying Goodbye)

Sadly, every now and then I’m reminded of my impatience with them as they grew weaker and slower, and as their memories failed.

In the summer of 2011 my wife, Beryl, and my son, Alec, and I took my dad to the cottage my sister’s family has just half a mile from the north coast of Northern Ireland. It was a remarkable trip filled with special experiences we shared with Dad, but it was also filled with countless irritations, embarrassing bathroom forays and endlessly repeated sentences.

Our return trip to the States began ominously with a long delay out of Belfast. The flight itself was a long series of “biological incidents” in the cramped forward bathroom, visible to anyone who cared to watch. We arrived at Newark Airport (if I never see it again it will be too soon) far too late to make our connections so we had to go through many steps to clear luggage, get Beryl on a flight one way, and Alec, Dad and me overnight in a hotel. It seemed that every hour of our return was filled with exasperation and complexity.

Throughout the juggling of our bags, finding a hotel, lining up a shuttle, and pushing/carrying Dad around, it felt like I answered some version of, “Craig, what’s going on?” “Where are our bags going?” “Why is Beryl on a different flight?” “Why are we staying overnight?” “When will we be home?” “Where’s Mom?” countless times.

At one point I was admittedly on edge, waiting yet another hour for the hotel shuttle, when Dad asked once again, “Where are we going?” I snapped. Figuratively and verbally. “Dad!! I’ve answered that question several times; are you going to listen this time?!”

Looking back, I am embarrassed to admit my impatience, and I remember immediately regretting my harsh tone and cutting words. But nothing prepared me for what came next.

Dad, who so often in those days disappeared into a fog of awareness, suddenly became the father again: attentive, perceptive, instructive, gracious, firm, and said softly, “Oh, Craig. Don’t do that.” I have rarely felt such an immediate sense of piercing remorse.

I’ve been reminded recently of the dance that “we of a certain age” conduct with our aging parents. At the same life-stage when we are wrestling with our own sense of waning significance, and our far-flung adult children still periodically rely on us for tough advice or limited finances, our own parents become like children and we have to assume the role of adult caretaker.

Until we snap like a child and our parent suddenly returns for one achingly convicting comment.

Not long ago a friend sent me the following letter from an aging mother to her daughter:

“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way … remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say,

I love you … my darling daughter.”
(Original text in Spanish by Guillermo Peña.
Translation to English by Sergio Cadena)

I wish on that awful afternoon in Newark Airport I had had this perspective in mind, especially during that one minute I regret. I know he has forgiven me, but I wish before I snapped at Dad I had held my tongue just long enough to remember his long-suffering patience with me when I was a child.

But I didn’t. Maybe you will.