NATIONAL PARENTS OF THE YEAR “LIVING BY HEART”

It seems self-evident to me that strong marriages and responsible parenting are crucial ingredients of a healthy society. Studies have repeatedly shown that a stable, loving family unit is more likely to result in positive social outcomes for children. (See www.acf.hhs.gov) Fortunately, our government and legislators are realizing this important truth that faith traditions have taught for centuries.

President Bill Clinton first signed into law the Congressional Resolution (USC §135) which established the fourth Sunday of every July as a day to recognize, uplift, and support the role of parents in raising children. Thus, National Parents' Day was born in 1994.

Since its establishment, faith groups and other activists have initiated activities such as essay-writing contests, family festivals, and parenting awards in order to mark the holiday.

In my village, a rural Northern California city of about 3500, my husband and I, with the help of two other families, have held an annual event since 2006 to recognize local couples for excellence in parenting. The event was consistently well-attended and involved food, music, and guest speakers along with the presentation of awards.

For various reasons, we discontinued the annual event after 2013 but still tried to celebrate National Parents Day in some way. For example in 2014, we held a special birthday party for my father-in-law, who happened to turn 90 on the fourth Sunday of July!

This year we nominated an outstanding local couple, Lowell and America Callahan, for the national-level Parents of the Year award, never imagining the outcome. They were both surprised and delighted to hear that they had been awarded the National Parents of the Year Award!

I have known America Callahan for so long I don't remember how we first met, but it was probably when she used to shop at my father-in-law's fruit-stand back in the early 1990s. She is a warm, kind person who makes friends with almost everyone she meets. Over the years I have taught piano to several of her children. When she opened her own store, America's Emporium, I became one of her regular customers. America's store is a lovely place where you can shop for antiques, collectibles, upscale second-hand jewelry, furniture and knickknacks. When I first introduced Women's Federation to my neighborhood, America graciously opened her store on Saturday afternoons so that we could hold public meetings there.

I was not at the banquet in Washington D.C. where the Callahans were awarded their National Parents of the Year plaque. However, I enjoyed moment-to-moment updates from America via text message. When it dawned on her that they had won the ultimate prize, America cried, overwhelmed with gratitude. She and her husband were delighted just to be one of the twelve finalists, so it was an extra blessing to be so honored. They are humble folks whose parenting journey has been mostly a matter of doing the right thing, in other words, living by heart, guided by scripture.

Link to local newspaper article about the Callahans