Contrary to the many times I've heard this offer with nary a thought that related to me, this time I immediately knew I had a story to share.
Of my parents, my dad is the quiet one: always a diligent and steady worker, a kind and gentle man who deserved my respect. He's someone I've never wanted to intentionally hurt - from the days of youthful testing-my-wings through to the present when my visits with him are an occasional and precious treat. Though Dad is soft-spoken, he has a sure conviction about important things of life; like integrity, compassion, respect; and his way of communicating those values has been in keeping with his personality.
Growing up in a devout Christian family, we faithfully attended church together: at least two times a week, often more. Church was a place of worship and biblical learning - and a gathering place to visit. When I was about nine or ten Mom and Dad let me sit with my friends, but I just knew I was in my Dad's sights, regardless of where we sat. We did the normal kid things like writing notes, comparing the contents of our purses, whispering when we thought nobody was watching and when something would strike us as funny, trying hard to make ourselves stop giggling. Every once in a while I could feel my Dad's eyes on me and I couldn't resist a look to see if he was watching. If we made eye contact and he had one eyebrow raised and the other lowered, I knew I had better pull myself in line - right now. Mercifully, he never embarrassed me by getting out of his pew to come and ensure an improvement in my behaviour. All I needed was that one small, but meaningful, gesture to smarten me up in a hurry.
I've been given a lifetime of gestures from my Dad. Just a few months ago, grasping my hand to say good-bye and slipping me a $20 bill. On my wedding day, his gentle tug on my arm - my soon-to-be husband singing as we walked down the aisle wasn't a surprise to Dad. The little endearments shown to my children - and some not so little, like sitting in a rocking chair with babe in arms for two hours so as not to wake her up.
Actions speak loud and clear. The small intimate ones can sometimes be the most powerful.