Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19, 2011, helps many of us focus on our dad’s contributions to our life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 67.8 million U.S. men are fathers. Of that number, 25.8 million are traditional fathers living with their wife and their own children under the age of 18. Another 2.0 million are single fathers.
|A father and son play together|
Regardless of the status of each father, there are children to be loved and cared for. I wonder, though, how many grown children could have this story as their own.
This Monday Hank, age 27, sits across the table from me at a local coffee shop, his long hair dangling out from under a blue stocking cap pulled down to his eye brows and ears. Hank is wearing a bulky outfit and his scruffy beard, several days old, is frosted over a sad smile.
I had never met Hank before. His wife had come to the altar at the end of our church service and wanted prayer – she was asking him to leave their home today. He hadn’t worked in twelve months, had a drinking problem, and needed meds for emotional problems.
I asked Hank’s wife for his cell phone number and called him, telling him who I was, and I explained that his wife had asked for prayer today at church, and promised I could help him.
“Do you want to get together?”
“Sure, when?” he replied.
So now, Hank sits across from me. His story is short and bitter. Parents divorced when he was five, step fathers beat him, a cousin sexually abused him for six years, he dropped out of high school, he went to jail three times, and he has lost numerous jobs because of his temper and acting out behaviors.
Hank talked to me as though we were friends. At first he was nervous, so I assured him he didn’t need to be. “You can relax!” Almost like a breath, a peace seemed to settle over Hank. We drank coffee and talked.
Among other things, I explained to Hank that he needed to go home and kiss his wife because she had the courage to come and ask for prayer on his behalf.
I asked if he would like to talk the next day. He agreed.
On Tuesday, Hank sat across from me again. He had bought a small spiral bound notebook. He had written down the Bible verses he had read today and the people he had prayed for. I had told Hank the previous day that I would talk with him only if he agreed to have what I call a “Proof of Life in Christ” journal. Each day, he would use the journal to record the verses from his five minutes of Bible reading and to record the names from his five minutes of praying.
Hank had done what I said, but his body language spoke louder. Hank’s jaw was set and his eyes showed no life or love. He told me he never cries. He told me more about his life, now empty of all but pain and sorrow. While he didn’t cry, I did. I gave him several McDonald’s coupons so he could take his daughters and wife out to eat.
The, on Wednesday, a young man walked up and sat at my table. I was expecting Hank. This young man had shaved, sported a new haircut, and wore a more stylish outfit. He put his “Proof of Life” journal down to shake my hand. I smiled and said, “What did you wife say?”
“After our meeting yesterday,” Hank shared, “I called my wife and asked if we had money for a haircut for me. She said, ‘We always have enough money for you to get a haircut!’ She never did like my long hair. She likes this new look.”
As Hank continued, he remarked, “I felt really good talking with you yesterday.” He smiled. Hank shared how he had accidently been released from juvenile detention on a Thursday ten years ago. The next day, police informed him of the mistake and said he would have to report back on Monday. That weekend Hank went to church, gave his life to God, and met his future wife. Several years later they married.
An hour later Hank got up to leave. He had big plans — tonight was McDonald’s. He needed to renew his driver’s license before then. I asked if he had any money on him. “Fifteen dollars,” he replied, so I handed him two twenties.
Thursday came and Hank sat across from me again. He seemed alive. He said, “If you have ever been drunk, in the morning when you wake up you have such a deep thirst. Water tastes so good when you drink it. That was what it was like this morning as I read my Bible in my ‘Proof of Life’ time. I had a deep thirst satisfied.”
The smile faded as he paused. “Last week I came as close as I have ever come to ending my life. This week my life has turned around 180 degrees.”
Today, I went home and told my wife about my latest visit with Hank. With choking tears I said, “It was like Hank has been waiting for a Dad to find him.”
Tomorrow I will be sitting across from Hank again, listening to this grown son who never had a dad.
The fact is that any dad can benefit from talking with another dad. To get started, be sure to take advantage of the wealth of helpful articles, celebrity stories, and other resources available from www.Wisdom4Dads.com.
Duane J. (D. J.) Young is a noted pastor and educator, and the founder of www.Wisdom4Dads.com and also the author of nearly a dozen books on fathering today. This past year D. J. was one of only two Americans to receive a special letter of commendation from the White House in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day. The letter was signed by Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The other recipient was Dr. Carey Casey, CEO of the National Center for Fathering (www.fathers.com). Duane Young can be contacted by e-mail at: dj@Wisdom4Dads.com or by phone at: (360) 852-1076