Dr. Solomon Nendi (YES 2005-2006, Nigeria, hosted by IRIS in Washington, IA)
When you talk about strength, valor, protection, confidence and courage, the first thing I think of is a father. There are hero attributes that we can see in our fathers that often mirror our favorite fictional superheroes. More often than not, we can forget about fathers in our life stories. But I want to thank every father for their immense contribution to my life and largely to what I have become because of their guidance.
I have been privileged to have had many fathers in my short time on Earth, but worthy of note is my biological father Nde Lukolm Caleb and my host dads Robert Negrete and Dennis Fox. Their phenomenal acts have been a backbone to me and the best advice I have ever received has come from these gentlemen. A lot of my life choices and decisions were driven by them, including the choice to become a doctor.
My biological father taught me everything about how to survive, live and move through daily life. He also taught me to develop a thicker skin towards the challenges of the world. He is one of the most easy going and flexible people I know. He is always going out of his way for his children and is gentle to a fault. By being a community leader, he makes sacrifices for people he barely knows and receives respect just by being respectful himself. In the African tradition, a younger person is always expected to greet elders any time they meet, but in him, I have found humility that breaks even custom. I find counsel in his advice and patience in his forgiveness.
My host fathers taught me how to open my arms to strangers. Living with them also taught me patience. Staying with them each for 5 months seems to be quite a short time to learn much about a person but I can confidently say that they are wonderful fathers. I saw how they individually supported their families to the fullest, raising responsible future fathers, and I have seen the same values in some of us that have become fathers already. They went out of their way to make everybody comfortable, and supported each member of the family in their individual pursuits, never showing favorites and always treating us all as equals. They addressed every misbehavior or stubbornness and corrected any issue with love.
I am now a father and there was not a moment where I didn’t get scared or overwhelmed by this new status. All of my fathers had done well in raising me and by seeing them do such great work, I had no choice but to try to be like them because they laid such a strong gold plated foundation for me.
I see the same attributes in all of my fathers: love. They make time for any event or function where any of their children are participating. It has been 14 years since I stayed with the Negretes and Fox-Poulsons, but after I came back from my exchange program, the stories of my short term superheroes has still stayed with me.
These men are all living legends and there wouldn't be a great time to appreciate them and their super powers more than now. Happy fathers day to all fathers, may the firm love you have given us come back to you.