There was a memorable line in the Jack Nicholson movie As Good as It Gets* that has stuck with me for years. Nicholson’s character, the very obnoxious and unlikeable Melvin, is in a restaurant trying … awkwardly … to compliment Helen Hunt’s character Carol, a waitress he is falling for.
As Melvin builds up to this compliment, Carol is pretty sure – based on past history – that he’ll say something awful.
He fumbles for a bit before he finally says, “You make me want to be a better man.”
Carol’s immediate response is silence, and – after a long pause that makes Melvin wonder if he’s totally blown it – she replies, “That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.”
My wife, Michelle, and I are going on 20 years of marriage this summer. And that line uttered by Melvin really captures how blessed and inspired I am by her. She truly does make me want to be a better man, a better dad, a better follower of Jesus.
I thought of those words again a few weeks ago when I saw that former President Bill Clinton is one of the 2013 “Father of the Year” award recipients, as selected by an organization calling itself The National Father’s Day Council.
What intrigued me about the announcement was that it didn’t really mention what Clinton has done as a father to merit the award.
Instead, the organization praised Clinton’s efforts as a philanthropist around the world. USA Today’s coverage of the announcement cited his global health and environmental work through the William J. Clinton Foundation as key factors in the committee’s decision.
That got me thinking …. What inspires us to name a dad “Father of the Year,” anyway? Is it what a dad does as a dad in his family, or is it more about what he does in the world – and that he just happens to be a dad, too?
It also got me thinking about Melvin and what motivates and inspires us to be better dads in the first place.
My wife once gave me a simple gift that I’ve treasured for years and has inspired me to be a better man. For our anniversary, Michelle compiled some colored index cards, spiral bound, with handwritten messages on them. The title card read simply: “How do I love thee …”
Each card briefly notes something that she loves, admires or respects about me:
“You value your family and keep them (us) a priority!”
“You encourage me in new endeavors, but you don’t demand that I be someone I’m not.”
Wow. Let me tell you, this is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. If our house was on fire, I would want to save these heartfelt thoughts. Every once in a while, Michelle rotates the order of the cards to display a specially chosen thought or sentiment.
Do I always behave like the man she describes on those cards? Absolutely not. I wish I were. But those cards sit on our bathroom counter, every day reminding me not only of what she sees in me, but what she appreciates about me.
Yeah, she makes me want to be a better man.
In what ways have you felt inspired to be a better dad?
* By the way, I’m not endorsing the movie As Good as It Gets. It has some great moments, but is very flawed, too. For a great resource on how to evaluate entertainment options that may or may not be appropriate for your family, please check out www.PluggedIn.com for hundreds of helpful media reviews.