An article from the 2/22/17 Weekly Update by Tim Keller
I got to the restaurant an hour before my scheduled meeting. As per usual, I asked the server for a table in the back where I could work for an hour without interruption until my friend arrived for our lunch meeting. She obliged and brought me my unsweetened ice tea. I pulled out my laptop and started returning emails and answering phone calls.
When a couple of people came into my otherwise empty section and sat nearby I hardly noticed them until I glanced and realized that they were a father and daughter. Her bald head covered by a crocheted hat caused me to ponder why a twelve year old girl was at a Friendly’s in Scranton at 11 am and not in school. Perhaps they had just come from a doctor’s appointment? Perhaps she was on her way to a treatment and was enjoying a good meal before hours of feeling ill?
I returned to my work and looked their way only after the server had taken their order and brought their food. What attracted my attention were both the aroma of their meal and the noise of her father talking somewhat loudly on his cellphone. As their meal continued I saw her look at him with eyes that could only be described as sad. He was talking to someone at his work place about matters that I’m sure were of vital importance; but he wasn’t speaking to her at all.
My heart began to cry out, “Talk to her! Tell her how much you love her. Tell her it’s going to be okay, that she is still beautiful and that you’re delighted to have the chance to share lunch with her.”
I wanted him to speak to her in the worst way. I wanted him to put the phone away and comfort this hurting child, touch her nose with his finger and make her laugh. I longed for him to speak words of affirmation and compassion, to ask her questions and hang on her every response.
Alas, she gave up on any hope of a conversation and did what young people do today; she pulled out her phone and started pushing buttons. His phone call ended just as the check came and they soon departed for whatever was before them that afternoon. I felt sad.
It was then that I realized that I hadn’t been sitting there urging him to speak to his daughter as much as I had been grieving the many times that I had missed opportunities to have those same conversations with my own sons. I mourned the selfishness that all too often caused me to be silent when I should have spoken and to be busy when I should have been attentive.
Wisdom often appears with gray hair. My perspective is better developed now, when the opportunities have passed.
So I send this note in a bottle to fathers afar who may still have the chance.
Speak to her.