My Hero

I am in debt.

No, my credit card bills are not piling up (hopefully) but I owe a huge debt of gratitude towards my father.

I would not be the person and pastor I am today were it not for him.

They say we are all products of our own choices and decisions.  

While this is true, the way our parents raise us often determines how we make those life changing choices.

I would like to share a bit of my life with you today, especially as it relates to my father.

In some ways, this entry serves as an on-line journey (guys don’t call them dairies, but its basically the same thing!)

As I reflect back and process my upbringing and the impact my dad had on me, perhaps you will be encouraged to do the same. 

Perhaps your father has passed away, but you can take some time to remember back.  Perhaps he is still with you and this Father’s Day might be a bit different having taken some time to look back with a new and fresh perspective.  Perhaps you never knew your father, but have come to a loving understanding and relationship with your heavenly father.  I don’t know your story, but I hope that mine can speak to all sons (and daughters) out there.

It is not an extraordinary story.  It is not an uncommon story.  but that’s the point.  It is a very common story, perhaps much like yours, but it is my story, which I embrace and now share.

My father, Gary Haugh, was raised in Lexington, MA (birth place of the American Revolution).  His ancestry and parents were Norwegian..making him of course Norwegian.  Besides skiing, Norwegians are known for a bit of stoicism, hard work, conservative lifestyle and beliefs, and a love for boats (and i guess violent conquering if you factor the Vikings into the equation!)

Gifted with a brilliant mind, he enveloped himself into philosophy from the ancients to the contemporaries of his time who turned out to be the founders of postmodern thought).   I am sure like most of us, during his early high school years his curiosity got the best of him at times and he wandered from the faith tradition he was raised in. But Jesus had a plan and my father followed it by his late teens and early twenties.   He went to the University of Maine for undergrad and then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity Seminary for his masters.  Called toward a deeper pursuit of truth and knowledge and with a desire to serve students, he volunteered as a youth leader at Grace Chapel in Lexington MA where he met and fell in love with my mom.  They got married and moved out to Indiana where he attended the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!) and was working towards his PHD in Philosophy and Christian thought.

Now here is where the story turns.

Guess who suddenly came on the scene?  Yours truly. 

The first big decision my father had to make, and for which I will always be grateful and inspired by, was a choice between his personal and professional future or his young family and new son.

He choose the later.  He choose our future and not his own.

 Forgoing to finish his studies, my dad and mom moved back home to MA to have me.  After moving back from Indiana, my dad took a job with Analog Devices for about a year.  He worked the late shift and during that year I was born.

My mom recalls that when she had me, my dad would work his shift, go to my Nana’s house and rest for a bit, (the job was closer to my grandparents house than where we lived at the time) then come to the hospital (Winchester) to visit us. As she put it, “He was tired, but so proud of his little boy.”

 My dad took a job working at my uncle’s fish store in Arlington and my parents eventually moved into the second story apartment of my other  grandparents house in Arlington to save money and be close to family.  While still living in Arlington, my father started working UPS while still with Adams Seafood.  They needed the insurance and the extra pay helped make ends meet.

My entire family, including cousins all lived within a 15 minute drive and every holiday and birthday was celebrated together.  I went to the same school as my cousins and my family was everything to me.  That was my life and it was a great life.

I never realized what sacrifices both of my parents made until I got much older.  

I also never realized what I did not have.  It never once crossed my mind to compare what we had (and did not have) with my other friends.

My younger sister Lauren came along a few years later and by the time I was 12 my parents were able to purchase their first home and so we moved to NH.   My dad had to continue to work two jobs to provide for our family. 

He managed a Friendly’s restaurant by day and then worked the night shift at a UPS warehouse. I never thanked him for that back then because I was young and selfish and never understood the tremendous sacrifice he made for his family.

And yet despite putting in all those hours (and I am sure stressing over finances), my sister and I never once had a need.  

Church and ministry was always a priority and so was spending time with his two children. 

My dad never missed one baseball game and we made sure to take family vacations. Apparently when I was younger my dad and I were talking and he mentioned something about working long hours – wishing he had had more time with me, and I said ” Dad, even though you were busy – you always made the time to be there”…… and he did.

Every January we were go to Cape Cod.  January?  Yes, January. 

Back then, I just thought it was a great time to get away since we had an extra few days off, but I am sure that the prices were much cheaper then and we probably could not afford to visit Cape Cod during the summer.  But it didn’t matter.  I looked forward to going every year and staying at the Gull Wing hotel and going to my favorite Hearth and Kettle restaurant where we would sit by the window overlooking the pond and watch the geese swim. 

We would also vacation every summer at Lake Winnapasaukee in NH.  My father grew up going there in the summers as well, and it was there that I learned to swim, fish, hit a whiffle ball, drive a boat, and learned about the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.  I still take 1-2 weeks every August and return for vacation.

Every other vacation we would drive to visit family or see historic sites from America’s past.  I never flew on a plane or visited Disney World, but I never cared.  Looking back, I wonder if my dad felt bad about those vacations and about what we were not able to do, but perhaps he saw the joy that it brought his children and thanked God for those moments.

I have learned that is not about  what you do or where you go, but about how you make the the most of every opportunity. 

I have students in my youth group now who travel the world with their families (Africa, Europe, hosting private Disney parties) but have virtually no relationship with their father. Money cannot buy happiness anymore than it can buy a relationship with your dad.

Also looking back I was never ashamed or embarrassed about what my father did.  Where I live now, what your father does becomes a symbol and source of identity and a mark of either pride or ridicule.  The students whose fathers are CEO’s in NYC or celebrities are thought more highly of than those whose father’s just work for “the man”.

But growing up, I loved what my dad did. When he managed the fish store, every Saturday he would pick me up in the “Big Truck” (which turns out was never that big!),  and we would drive into Boston to pick up fresh fish from the markets.  I would eagerly wait with excitement gazing out my frond window at home until I saw my dad pull up in the truck. I loved Saturdays and still the smell of ocean and fish brings back amazing childhood memories.  My dad would sign hymns and other Christian songs like “As the Deer” to me on those drives.  He probably didn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but to me it was angelic and when I hear those same songs today, it brings tears to my eyes.

When he worked at Friendly’s I would go in and get fries and a coke and want to help cook or clean or whatever I could do.  Through his example, my dad taught me the value of hard work and there is no shame in providing for your family. In fact, it is a great honor and responsibility that he took seriously.

One more note to share.    While we were still in MA, we switched churches.  I cannot remember why, but it may have had to do with the enormous size our church was getting and my parents wanting to be a be part of a more intimate community. (hmm sound like much of my writing and views?)

But at this new church, there was no youth group.  They could not afford a youth pastor and so my dad volunteered to lead the youth group.  There were probably 3-4 guys in total, but my dad gave up one evening a week to come to the church.  There was no budget I am sure, but on the way to church we would stop by the grocery store to pick up some chips and soda out of his own pocket.

 I remember playing kickball and other fun games both indoors and outdoors and I remember my dad being there.  I really don’t remember any particular lesson, but I do remember that I made friends there and learned about God’s love and plan for my life.  

I had a good time and looked forward to youth group.  That stuck with me over the years and though I strayed from the faith for some time, I was well rooted and established and eventually came back to youth group and to Jesus.

My dad was no youth ministry expert and I am sure it was a challenge to take his higher level advanced thinking about the faith and bring it down to a level where 8-14 year old boys could grasp it.  But my dad was present to us and he was always present to me.  His presence made God’s presence seem real and tangible.  God used my father in bigger ways than even he could have imagined.  Twenty years later his son (me) is a youth pastor and speaking and writing to encourage those just like my father.

I am also blessed because my father is still with me and hopefully will be for years. Our relationship has grown and developed into a true friendship.  He was my best man in my wedding two years go. 

When I went through a very difficult personal and spiritual time a number of years back, my dad was there for me.  He was there to listen, to cry, and and prayer. 

When I was ordained as a pastor, my father was there to support and celebrate.

And when the Red Sox finally won the World Series, my father was the first person I called.

Often on Father’s Day, we get or receive tools.  Most guys like tools (regardless if they even know how to use them!)

A few years back my dad gave me a great little book called “10 Things I Want My Son to Know: Getting him ready for Life” by Steve Chapman.

There is a great poem inside that I wanted to share as it relates to the “tools” of fatherhood.

“Tools for the Trade”

If you are a father, you are a builder

And your children will become what you’ve made

Please do your best, and please don’t forget

God gave you the tools for the trade

He gave you eyes to see where your child might go wrong

And feet to lead them safely through

Hands to hold their hands

And lips to say, “I love you”

He gave you arms to hold them when they are afraid

Time to wait until they’re calm

Ears to hear between their lines

Tears to cry when they’re gone

And your knees are for playing

And they’re also for praying

That God will watch over the child

And in those times you can’t say it

But they still need to hear it

You can say, “I love you” with your smile

If you are a father, you are a builder

And your children will become what you’ve made

Please don’t forget that you can do your best

God gave you the tools for the trade 


They say that when a person passes, what is left is our memories and his or her legacy.  I will always have great memories of my dad and hope to build on them in the years to come.  We have pilgrimages each summer traveling across the  country watching our beloved Red Sox play in different stadiums and experience the local cuisines and pubs.

But I know that one day those moments will cease and so I desire to make the most of every single opportunity I can, and I encourage you to do to the same.

I know that one day my father will enter the presence of Jesus.  He will be known then through his son, me.  I hope to make him proud and build on his legacy.  I hope the name Haugh is known far and wide and that my dad’s story is told.  I hope we are remembered for our grace filled love, pursuit  of knowledge and truth, and relationship with Jesus that impacted people and changed lives.

We share great moments now talking theology, faith, philosophy, sports, and enjoying much different vacations than when I was a child, but the spirit has always remained the same.  I am one of the fortunate ones.  Through my earthly father, I have experienced the love of my heavenly father in ways unimaginable.  I have witnessed first hand loving discipline, grace, forgiveness, and hope that only a father can provide.  Through my dad I have received a glimpse of what God is like and my deepest prayer is that if God blesses me with a son or daughter some day, I can follow in the footsteps of my dad. 

Through my father’s sacrifice and selflessness, I have learned the value of family, hard work, faith in Christ, commitment, being content in all situations, and enjoying all that life has to offer. 

In youth ministry, my greatest heroes are the volunteers, men and women, moms and dads untrained, but with a love of God and a desire to see students come to know him. 

In life my hero is my father, Gary Haugh. 

Thank you Dad and I will always cherish our memories

with much love, affection, and deep appreciation

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Daniel Gary Haugh-     Father’s Day, 2009

(dad with his new son)


(the young Haugh family in Lexington, MA)


(Dad and son while in Haiti)

dad in Haiti_NEW

(dad as best man on August, 11, 2007)

wedding_20_best man toast


One thought on “My Hero

  1. You had and still have a great father to look up to!!. Reading what you wrote brought memories back from those times I spent with my Dad. Thanks Dan. Memories are very important, they never go away. Have fun at the lake and in Toronto!!!

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