Happy Thoughts

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To listen to this reflection as a podcast, click here.
For a number of men, Father’s Day can be tough.
A middle-aged man recently wrote, “I hate Father’s Day.  It takes me hours to find a card.  All the cards have sentiments that don’t fit – ‘Dad, you’re a pal,’ or ‘I’ve always been able to count on you,’ or ‘You taught me how to be a man,’ or ‘Let’s go hunting.’  They don’t have any that say, ‘Dad you were a mean-spirited snake who scared the wits out of us and broke our mother’s heart.’” 
Film director Steven Spielberg wouldn’t say that his dad was a mean-spirited snake.  But the two of them were never close – a painful memory that he incorporated into a number of his early features. 
For instance, both E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade portray the aching reality of an absent father, and how the son who is left behind must learn to fend for himself emotionally. 
Spielberg openly admits that his movie Hook, based on the story of Peter Pan, reflects experiences from his own life.
Robin Williams plays Peter Banning, an obsessive workaholic who has forgotten that in his childhood he really was Peter Pan.  When he goes with his family to London to visit Wendy Darling, who is now an old woman, he describes his work buying and selling other corporations in search of profit.  “Why Peter,” Wendy says in alarm, “you’ve become a pirate!”
Peter’s wife and children are little more than props in his life.  They’re not fooled.  They know they are peripheral to his goals.  Spielberg recognized that his own drivenness was threatening to destroy his chances of connecting emotionally with his kids.
In the movie, the ruthless Captain Hook kidnaps Peter’s 12-year-old son Jack and seven-year-old daughter Maggie.  He uses them as bait to trick Peter into a final fight to the death. 
But Peter has lost his identity.  He’s no longer Peter Pan.  And he doesn’t even know how to locate the zip code for being an effective father.  Jack despises him. 
If only he could fly, the way he used to.  Tinkerbell reminds him that all he needs to get off the ground is one happy thought.
Where in the world will Peter ever find that? 
When the climactic battle finally unfolds, Peter is airborne.  His children stare at him, incredulously.  Their dad is really a magical figure?  Peter soars up to his son and says, “I found my happy thought, Jack.  Want to know what it was?  It was you.” 
How many kids in the real world have hoped against hope that they might one day hear such a transforming word from their father?
Captain Hook briefly traps Peter and brandishes his hook, menacingly, near his face.  Then he launches a full assault on his identity: “You know you’re not really Peter Pan, don’t you?  This is only a dream.   When you wake up, you’ll just be Peter Banning – a cold, selfish man who drinks too much, is obsessed with success, and runs and hides from his wife and children.”
First the Lost Boys, and then his own children respond: “I believe in you.” 
How many dads in the real world have wondered if they have ever managed to inspire such affection in the hearts of their kids – and then wonder, in desperation, if it’s not too late for such a thing to happen? 
If we could write a prescription for this Father’s Day, what might it be?
How about this: that dads and their kids of all ages might discover, even in the midst of a broken world, that they can still be at the heart of each other’s happiest thoughts.
This weekend may our Father in heaven help make it so.