By Karen Fogleman, about her dad Jon Fogleman.
My Dad often apologizes when we are discussing physical ailments and traits that he claims I have inherited from him. Cold hands and feet due to poor circulation, allergies, worrying about things beyond my control, the occasional bout of insomnia, lack of athleticism. The topics are wide and varied. Through this lens of humility and apologies, my Dad fails to highlight all that I have learned from him. There were lessons given when I did something wrong or strayed toward a dangerous path, but it was the implicit lessons he taught me about kindness, empathy, creativity, and bravery through his daily actions that became the bigger gifts.
Kindness and Empathy: my Father is always looking out for others. While this was inherently a part of his job as a Lutheran Pastor, he truly walks the walk. I can’t even tell you the number of times my Dad was rushing off to help someone in need. Sometimes that looked like taking a 2-3 hour phone call to provide an empathetic ear or to sit quietly with a family so it wasn’t just the family and grief in the room. Sometimes it meant going to the hospital to help someone ill or injured, to the police station to help someone who had been arrested, or to an apartment building where someone was being unfairly treated by their landlord. Sometimes it meant going shopping to buy a fridge or bicycle to give to someone to help with food sustainability and mobility. What you or I might call kindness and generosity, my Dad would call the right thing to do, the human thing to do.
Creativity: I love my Dad’s art work. He will tell you that the only thing he can draw is stick people…and if you’re holding his artwork up to a career or museum type of checklist, then yes, stick people it is. But I see his artwork as beautiful bright banners that were always hanging in our front hallway to welcome someone home from a trip; happy, hand drawn birthday cards; a painted rock resembling a whale that still lives in my garden to this day; and delicious pita sandwiches made for me when I was in school, packed with goodness and wrapped in wax paper with bright green painter’s tape holding it all together. Unabashed creativity.
Bravery: People often say that public speaking is one of the biggest fears many have. My Dad’s job required him to speak publicly every Sunday morning. He would spend parts of the week working at the end of our dining room table on his sermon. What blew me away was not only the standing in front of a large group each week, but the fact that he didn’t read it…he wrote it, used it as a road map and then truly engaged in the learning with his congregation. His words were always full of emotion, humility, hope, and came from an authentic place of caring for others and the world at large. He could easily flow between a sermon directed to a large congregation of adults, to a children’s lesson, to individual conversations following the service as every member waited to speak with him and shake his hand. I think part of my interest in Drama and the performing arts is fueled by the fact that I saw my Dad publicly put himself ‘on stage’ weekly, and so in my mind, it was something people do all the time. In reflection, acting and performing is way easier than what my Dad did every week. In acting you play someone else, you say someone else’s words…my Dad wrote his own words each week, tying his messages to current events and putting the spotlight on the needs of others. He used and continues to use his voice to lift others, write letters, make calls, and participate in protests. Active bravery.
So yes, I’ll take the cold feet and lack of athleticism in lieu of the wealth of other things my Dad has modeled for me. I am truly lucky that Jon Fogleman is my Dad.
Karen can be found on Twitter @karen_fogleman.