As I sat examining my chipped pink nail polish during sacrament meeting this Father’s Day, a recurring thought crossed my mind as each speaker stood at the pulpit, “I wish I was speaking right now.”
Not because the talks weren’t good, or because they weren’t holding my attention, but because I knew that I wasn’t the only one in the sacrament meeting who was thinking that their dad didn’t measure up to any of the fathers in the talks being given.
My father left my family about a year and a half ago; and even before the abandonment, he was by no means the ideal father.
However, as I sat there on this celebratory Sunday, I wasn’t bitter, nor was I jealous of anyone else’s good fortune of being blessed with a father who fit the mold. What bothered me was the way that people were conducting their talks. I found it difficult to listen to talks with identical phrases sprinkled throughout each one, such as, “everyone knows that all good dads do this …” or even “I’m sure you all know that all dads who love their children do that …”.
My father does not do this, and he does not do that, nor will he ever. I have been blessed with father figures throughout my life who have stood in place of my father, and I’m so grateful that so many others had the opportunity to grow up with excellent fathers. However, I think in Mormon culture it’s easy to assume that everyone has the idyllic family—married and sealed in the temple with no divorce, infidelity, separation or tragedy on the horizon.
I believe that everyone should take the time to assume that there’s always the possibility of the stories we don’t hear—the student whose parent just lost their job, the student who’s experiencing same-sex attraction, the student who’s not a member but still attends BYU-Idaho, the student who’s dealing with depression or the student whose father abandoned their family.
We don’t all come from idyllic family situations, and it’s not safe to assume that with language we’re all guilty of using when we say “All of us are”, “all of us have”, or “all of us know.” We shouldn’t generalize because we don’t know what everyone is going through.
We hear it while sitting in a class where someone says, “Well, we’re all Mormon.” We hear it while listening to a sacrament talk where the speaker says, “I know we’ve all been taught this since we were little, but…”. We experience this when we are not able to raise a hand in a Sunday school lesson where the teacher says, “So who’s been on a mission? Great, so pretty much everybody, so then you guys will know…”. These have all been instances that I have personally experienced that left me thinking, “But what about the people who don’t fit this we all generalization?”
So as I sat there whittling at the light pink hue of my nails, I thought, “If I could have spoken today, I could have said ‘I don’t have a father I can look up to on Father’s Day, and that’s ok, because we’re all different.”
I challenge each of us to break our thoughts from generalization and because although “we all” are students at this university, “we all” are different with different backgrounds, different family situations and different stories.