Tuesday, October 21, 2008
For my father on this his 51st Birthday
Dale Harrison Taylor always seemed larger than life to me. I think I grew up believing that he was the Indiana Jones of the Amazon. Dad doesn't tell stories on himself, but there are stories that have followed him his whole life. We loved to hear him talk about growing up in the jungle, fishing around the piranhas and the boas. We believed him when he said that he could navigate the waters of the Amazon in a canoe - we had seen him jump from a rock face to a tree nearby, just to see if he could do it. Dad made fire without matches, performed rudimentary surgery on wounded neighbors who lived too far from a hospital to get medical care, skinned animals, delivered babies, taught through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in an unwritten language that no white man spoke better. He challenged his four children to soccer games that he always won.
But his accomplishments in "civilization" are the feats that have made my father the man that I deeply respect today. His acts of bravery outside of the jungle have made him real to me. My father turned his back on his magnum opus to save his family. He risked the thing he was made to do to confess the thing he most feared. Every day he chooses to don the collar and the dress shoes. Every day he crafts his opus, adding note and crescendo with every new trial, every word rightly spoken, every defense made for people who need him to speak for them. In a world far away from canyon sermons and the gospel's first tellings, Dad preaches in yet another rare language - the language of patient hope, of joyful service, of gentle kindness to this particular hillside's forgotten people. I see this. And I love him.