Earlier this year, I was challenged to share with a group of men one of my “heroes.” I could choose someone from history, alive or deceased, a relative, a friend or a public figure. My mind first went to my father. I did also consider Nelson Mandela as a hero I respect. However, I chose to write about my father, Tom Jarboe. I have seen the qualities of a godly leader in the life of my Dad. He served his country in the Korean conflict. He worked as a schoolteacher, coach, principal and finally as Superintendent of the Friona Public Schools. He served as an elder in the 6th Street Church of Christ for 14 years. I have not seen my father do anything but serve others. I have always looked up to my father, sought to make him proud and have tried to follow his example.
My father loves his family and always made sacrifices to lead, teach and care for his wife, children and grandchildren. He has a special love for his grandchildren and I see his influence in their lives, which will be felt for generations to come. However, he also reached back and touched past generations. He loved his parents and their families as well. I remember growing up and seeing my father almost every Sunday night, sit down at our kitchen table to write a letter to his aging parents.
He is a community leader and respected in his professional circles. He taught me the importance of hard work, responsibility and care for those who looked up to him as a leader. He always seeks to be a godly man. He served as an elder who put his focus on pleasing the Lord and caring for people. I would see him minister to people who faced difficult spiritual challenges. I remember a particular phone conversation I happened to hear, where he was helping a family through a serious crisis. I heard the strength and confidence that he gave them that all would be well. When I now hear of that family, I think how God used him to make a small contribution to provide them the strength and spiritual health they now enjoy. My father is a man of prayer for his family and for others. He loves people. I enjoy seeing him laugh and talk with people, sharing his stories, memories and experiences.
My father served as a school principal during the days of corporal punishment; but many of my friends would tell me that they would prefer my father “just give them the licks” rather than talk to them. He had a stern and sincere way of talking to someone in trouble and bringing them to tears of confession and repentance. The influence my father had on students was significant. Although they were somewhat afraid of my father, they had great respect for him and knew that he cared about them. Hundreds of students, parents and now their children and grandchildren have been touched by the servant leadership of my father. My father is very personable – he always knows people wherever he goes. Two years ago my parents moved to a new community and I have seen the almost immediate respect that he earned from those around him. He is someone who people trust and look to for guidance.
I have seen my father now struggling with his health and facing new challenges. He works hard to care for my mother as she struggles with her health as well. I have seen him show great patience and loving care even under difficult circumstances, when he needed care himself. He expresses a love for my mother that has grown over the 60+ years of their marriage. I have seen him struggle with questions of significance and feelings of worthlessness. But he is seeking to live out his life with faithfulness, bravery and determination.
I look up to my father as a real man. When he was able, he hunted, fished, played golf and spent time with his friends in various activities. He still works in the yard and garden, showing his sense of responsibility to take good care of the blessings from God. Some of the best times I have had with my father growing up were times working together, hunting, fishing or playing golf together.
I was asked to present “my leadership hero” to this group of men and to determine five to six words that describe my hero. The words that describe my father in my eyes are: responsible, hard working, caring, strong, loving and full of integrity. After I shared the words that best describe “my hero,” the men begin to speak to me about the ways they see those very same traits in my life. At first, it was hard to hear and even harder to accept; however, I realized that it was not anything that I had done. It was just that I had decided to follow the lead of those around me who were seeking to follow Jesus. My father continues to blaze the trail for me by saying through his actions the words spoken by the apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). If I had started out my life trying to be seen as a hero, failure would have been guaranteed. Providentially, I just tried to follow my Dad as he followed the One leading us back to God.