Carl Mays: Father’s Day: a time to honor and to learn

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 11:01 PM

A fable attributed to Aesop of sixth century BC Greece tells of a man and lion boasting of their strengths.

Contending mankind is stronger than lions by reason of greater intelligence, the man takes the lion to a public park where he shows him a statue of Hercules overcoming a lion. The man says, “Obviously, you can see men are stronger than lions.” To this the lion responds, “Obviously, I can see this statue was not carved by a lion.”

Perspective makes a difference. Such is the case when a story was written about a clairvoyants convention in Paris. Readers of palms, tealeaves and Tarot cards, along with crystal ball gazers and other prognosticators, turned out in large numbers. On the convention’s final day an English reporter asked if there would be another conference the next year. One of the clairvoyants replied, “We don’t know yet.”

You can imagine the newspaper story that followed this revelation.

I’ve spoken and written about perspectives many times because it’s something that has intrigued me for as long as I can remember. It’s just plain ole’ interesting to try to understand why people respond and react to various things in various ways – why some people see something from a certain viewpoint while others see it entirely different.

Of course, both heredity and environment, which includes all types of influences from assorted frames of reference, have much to do with our perspectives.

In a column I wrote in 2005, I shared a “perspective example” told to me by a Sevier County friend named Tim. He said his 16-year-old daughter was taking driver’s education in high school until she dropped the course. After she ran into a lamppost backing out of their driveway, he encouraged her to enroll in the course again.

When he asked why she dropped it in the first place, she replied, “Because it was too hard.” When he asked what course she picked up instead, she said, “computer science.” (You can tell that she and I are from different generations and backgrounds. So far, I haven’t run into any lampposts, but am still pretty illiterate when it comes to computers.)

Perspectives certainly come into play as we observe Father’s Day. When I think of my father, who died much too early at age 61 of cancer, I think of a very kind, humble, hard-working and talented man who loved his wife and children. He fully supported my brother, sister and me, and provided opportunities for us to make our own ways into the world.

At Daddy’s funeral, I recall Barthel Gray (football coach, businessman and daddy’s Sunday school teacher) sort of summing it up when he told me, “Your father was a great man. He always stayed in the background, but no father ever supported his children more.”

I contrast Mr. Gray’s words to those of a teenager in New Orleans when I was in graduate school and serving as a city-wide youth director. One of my tasks was counseling teens who lived and/or hung-out in the vicinity of the French Quarter (Vieux Carré). Burned forever in my mind is the reaction of the boy with whom I talking about God and mistakenly used the term “Heavenly Father.”

In no uncertain language he told me his so-called father was a S.O.B. and if he ever saw him again one of them would end up dead.

Father’s Day is a perfect time to focus on honoring the fathers who have honored us, and to focus on learning from mistakes they may have made. It is a perfect time to remember these words from Pope John XXIII (1881-1963): “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.”

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit