On Sunday, September 18, we will remember Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary General of the United Nations and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, and a personal hero of mine. Reading his biography is an inspiration to anyone. A few years ago, Kathy and I traveled throughout Sweden. On our list was Uppsala, home of a university, a large Lutheran church, and Hammarksjold’s grave. It was an adventure trying to find it but when we did, it was modest with fresh flowers that had been recently placed there. He died tragically in a plane crash in 1961, trying to negotiate peace in the Congo during a period of political upheaval and crisis.
Hammarskjold led by example and quietly, underneath it all, had a deep piety and spirituality that motivated him to lead a life of service. That life led him to the world stage, where he actively worked for peace with a global commitment to helping all people. The home he grew up in was a great influence that shaped his life for greatness. He writes about his parents:
“From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father’s side I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country – or humanity. This service required a sacrifice of all personal interests, but likewise the courage to stand up unflinchingly for your convictions. From scholars and clergymen on my mother’s side, I inherited a belief that, in the very radical sense of the Gospels, all men were equals as children of God, and should be met and treated by us as our masters in God.”
In the day-to-day busyness, confusion, and messiness that makes up living, at the moment it seldom seems as though your influence as a parent is having any effect on your children. However, perhaps your faithfulness as a loving parent day after day is really shaping the attitudes, values, and even spiritual life of your children after all. That certainly was the case with Dag Hammarskjold.