When Mike feels neglected by his father, Tim, he seeks solace from an unexpected mentor. Soon, Tim notices this and realizes he needs to be a better father.
Mike was a mild-mannered boy from the suburbs. He happened to be from a wealthy family. His father, Tim, was the head of a successful construction company. While all the kids at Mike’s school knew his dad was rich, he never fussed about it. Even his teachers loved him, and he was a hard-working student.
As Mike was starting fifth grade, tragedy struck as his aunt, Kathy, passed away after a short illness. Kathy would often take Mike to the local zoo on the weekends.
In her last words to Mike, she said, “promise you’ll go and say hi to the animals for me.”
Mike was struck by his aunt’s loss and began to struggle at school. Tim was also saddened by the death of his sister but distracted himself by focusing on work and landing more contracts. Tim spent less and less time at home, and Mike felt more alone than ever.
Every time he would try to spend time with his father or visit the zoo with him, Tim would dismiss him. “Listen, son. I’m just really busy at work right now, okay? If you need company, you have my permission to hang out with your buddies whenever you want,” Tim told his son.
Mike’s mother, Anthea, could also see that her son needed his father but struggled to convince Tim. Mike’s friends, Jake and Gabriel, noticed that he was feeling down and tried to find a way to cheer him up. They saw something interesting that Mike’s next-door neighbor Tony was doing.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most. I promise that I’ll never ignore you like that again.”
“Dude, you have to check out your neighbor’s yard. You’ll love it, we promise,” Jake told him. Four months later, Mike’s school hosted a special Father’s Day event. All students were invited to bring their dads or father figures to school and give a short presentation on who they are and what they do.
Since Tim was well-known around town, it shocked everyone when Mike brought a 64-year-old man to the Father’s Day presentation. “That’s not Tim…” audience members whispered in confusion. Some wondered whether the man was Mike’s grandfather or an uncle, as they had never seen him before.
When it was Mike’s turn to present, he brought Tony on stage. Tony was clearly quite nervous as he didn’t know anyone in the crowd. Many attendees were still confused about why Mike would bring Tony instead of his successful father.
“Today, Everyone called their father their hero. I want to name my neighbor, Tony, as my hero,” Mike said as he started his speech.
“I have known him for a few months. He was like a father to me during this time. Tony is a real hero! He takes care of stray dogs that he finds around the city. Right now, Tony has 14 dogs living at his house. He found them all beaten, hungry, and almost dying. He nursed them all back to health. Tony spends all the money he has from his pension on these dogs. You have no idea what kind of heart he has,” Mike finished.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Mike, Tim had arrived late to the event. Anthea had called Tim the previous day to beg him to attend the presentation.
“You know how much he’s been struggling since Kathy passed. Please show up for him. Our son needs his father,” she said.
Tim felt a pang of guilt as he watched his son give a speech about their neighbor rather than him. He realized he’d ignored his son’s needs since his sister passed. He had been so focused on business meetings and negotiations that he had hardly spent time with Mike all year.
As Mike left the stage, he noticed his father walking towards him from the end of the hall. Mike was worried his father would be furious with him since he had brought Tony along for Father’s Day instead of him. To Mike’s surprise, Tim embraced and gave him a long, warm hug. Tim even gave Tony a hug.
“I haven’t been the best dad this year. I guess I really struggled after losing Kathy. But I shouldn’t have ignored you. I know you were really close to your aunt as well. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most. I promise that I’ll never ignore you like that again,” Tim promised.
“And Tony. Thanks for looking out for my boy. You have to come over more often. You’re a friend of the family now. I actually have an idea for you,” he continued.
Tim suggested that they host an Adoption Day at Tony’s house and invited all of Mike’s classmates to come along with their parents.
Tim took time off work to help with the event and even fired up the barbeque in Tony’s backyard. Mike’s friends, Jake and Gabriel, and all their classmates attended with their families. They donated extra cans of dog food, medicine, and money to Tony.
In addition, ten of the dogs found new homes, including one which Tim decided to adopt for their family.
“Thank you all for the generous donations, and thank you to Mike, Tim, and Anthea for setting this up. You’re the best neighbors I’ve ever had,” Tony said at the end of the event.
From then on, Tim made sure to spend much more time with Mike. He delegated responsibilities at his company, so he would never have an excuse to skip out on family time. It became a tradition to visit the zoo in honor of Kathy.
Ten years later, Mike graduated with a Bachelor of Science and planned to open a veterinary practice treating and caring for animals. Tim surprised his son with his very own facility, built by his company, so he could get started. Jake and Gabriel, who had studied in the same class as Mike, were the first people he hired.
What can we learn from this story?
Always put family first. Tim threw himself into his work after his sister passed away, and didn’t realize that his son needed him. He only noticed the problem after Mike saw Tony as a father figure.
It’s never too late to change. Instead of taking offense to Mike’s decision to bring Tony to Father’s Day, Tim realized that he needed to spend more time with his family.
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