A Father’s Impact

Posted by Rachel Davis Ho on June 17, 2018

I remember very clearly the irony of Father’s Day a few years ago. At the time, I was working in a safehouse for women who had been sexually exploited. Before work, I ran to a nearby store to get a Father’s Day card for my dad, hoping to get it in the mail to him before Sunday’s holiday came. I quickly scribbled a note to him, telling him how thankful I was for him and how he had been there for me in my life. I told him how much I loved him and dropped it in the mail. With that task done, I moved on with my day.

A few hours later, a young woman sat in front of me, explaining what it had been like for her when she was homeless and addicted to heroin. Her boyfriend/pimp would find dates for her, always hoping they would get enough money to get a hotel room for the night.  If not, they would be sleeping on the streets. She ended up spending a few years in jail with drug charges before coming to our safehouse. She wanted help. She needed a second chance.

As she told me the details of her story, she gave me an empty smile and said, “Maybe my life would’ve been different if I had a different father.” The pain and weight of that statement hit me so deeply, for I believe it is true.

Her life would have likely been drastically different if she had a father who loved her and gave her the security every child desperately needs. Instead, she had a dad who came into her room at night and did things to her that to this day she does not understand. He took so much away from her.

It was a story that has sadly grown familiar. The details vary, but the main storyline is often the same. A woman, who society sees as a “prostitute” who seemingly makes the choice to throw away her life, yet she started her journey with few choices at all.  She was sexually abused as a child, wasn’t loved and valued at home, and never knew security. The things that happened to her set her life on a course that was incredibly hard to break away from.

A few years ago I attended a conference on the effects of trauma, and I remember the sessions on how those first five years of life are incredibly crucial to the rest of a child’s life. The role that seems to play an exceptionally significant part in a child’s future wellbeing is that of a father.

Oh, if only the dads knew. The impact they have on their daughters is one of the greatest she will ever have in her life. It can guide her to be secure in who she is, confident and ready to face the world, or she may be on a path similar to the woman sitting in front of me, telling me her story. Or commonly, it can lead her to the in between, guiding her neither directly to healthy relationships or to those destructive, but leaving her uncertain and vulnerable to the definitions other men and culture will place upon her. It starts with her father and how he treated her.

The wisdom of this young woman was profound. Yes, her life would likely have taken a different course if she had a father who treated her with respect, love, and care. While I am confident in the redemption, healing, and love found in our heavenly Father, I cannot help but think on this Father’s Day that I wish fathers understood their impact.

For the men who are fathers and who love their daughters well, thank you. You are impacting her life more than you may ever know. And for those who have been absent or busy, it is not too late to stop and pursue your children. Make them your top priority. Your greatest ministry and calling will be to invest in them. Do it well.

Rachel Davis Ho is Operations Manager and Senior Project Analyst for Wellspring International. This post originally appears on wellspringinternational.org.