'I Am My Kid's Dad!'

for the week of June 5, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

The magazine Men's Health did a survey among focus groups of college- educated men and 1,500 telephone contacts about life priorities. It seems that most men want something more than piles of money and a James Bond style of love-'em-and-leave-'em women in their wake.

Family was at the top of their priority list. "Being a great husband and father" scored first for 86%, followed closely by "Leaving work at 5 every day to be with your kids" at 83%. "And they are not just giving lip service to it; it's real," said the magazine's publisher. "It used to be you were a good father if you could pay for your children's lives. Today, their roles have really broadened."

My friend Scott Mercy is an example of a young dad who feels that way. Chairman and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals Inc. and Chairman of America Service Group at 38. He put together a $4 billion leveraged buyout plan when Hospital Corporation of America went private just over ten years ago when he was still in his twenties. A brilliant guy, at the top of his game, and rising.

You know the stereotype for this sort of man, don't you? Ambitious, hard- driving, long hours, task-focused, travel and aloof from his family. He let's his wife raise the kids because he's busy with the challenge of success. Wrong!

Scott's love for Joy and their three children has been on display for all the world to know. When his little girl's Father-Daughter Dance had to be rescheduled on account of a snow day, the new date fell right in the middle of a long-awaited ski trip he and some friends had planned. No problem. He could ski another time. Some fathers miss out on such things because their busy and demanding careers just make them impossible. Not Scott. He is his kid's dad!

So it was a devastating blow to Joy, the children, and many others of us when the plane Scott was piloting crashed last week. He died instantly. There is a huge vacuum in several settings today. Corporate offices, company board, his church. In his home most of all.

Scott died far too young. And I have no idea what epitaph should be put on his tombstone. But I know one that doesn't belong there: "He spent too much time doting on his wife and children."

A man with faith in God who loved his family deeply has forced several of us to rethink some priorities. Thanks, Scott, for reminding us about what matters.

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