Before Father’s Day gets too far in our rearview mirror, I want to challenge you and remind you about something very important.
Several weeks ago, I was talking with a good friend who told me, “Even though it’s great to celebrate fathers, we can’t forget about all the children who don’t have a dad. What are they going through on Father’s Day?”
It’s a great reminder. We can’t forget about those kids. (Just like we shouldn’t forget about the dads who don’t get to see their kids on Father’s Day.)
To give you a better idea for what those children are going through, here’s an essay written for one of our ‘What My Father Means to Me’ Contests a few years back. It’s by a 6th grader named Edward, and I should warn you: I’ve asked pro athletes and high-powered business leaders to read this essay out loud, but usually they can barely make it to the end.
Edward’s Essay is titled: “The Dad I Will Never Know.”
My dad and mom both served in the United States Navy. They were stationed in Maine, which is where I was born.
I said my first word when I was six months old. I took my first step when I was nine months old. I said my first prayer. On all my first school days, my mom was there. I always noticed dads picking up my friends and not so much moms. After so many years, I finally asked my mom why my dad never picked me up. She told me he was killed in a car accident when I was two months old.
My mom took me to Philadelphia to visit my dad’s grave when I was 8 years old. I sat next to his grave and stared at his picture on the gravestone. I remember crying for awhile because I wanted to give my dad a hug and to tell him how much I missed him and love him….
While playing soccer, I score goals and look up at my mom to see her face. If only my dad was standing there next to her to share the same excitement.
When I graduate high school and college, I will see my mom standing there so proud. If only my dad were there to stand proud next to my mom.
Mowing the lawn, learning how to drive, ride a bike, play catch in the backyard, how to fish, boy scout campouts, getting married, learning how to fix things and being a man [are things] my mom will have to teach me because my dad won’t be there. No sense in asking God why my dad isn’t here for me. He must have needed someone like my dad in heaven.
Now, that’s is a sad essay, but also inspiring because it’s so clear that all of us play an important and powerful role in our children’s lives. It’s up to us to be the dads they need, every day.
At the same time, we all probably know kids like Edward, whether they are in our neighborhoods, on our kids’ sports teams, in their schools, at our churches, or wherever. And they need us too!
Allow me to share another story about a young man named Tony. He’s in his mid-thirties and has two young children.
A few years back, a new family came to his church—a mom and several children. There are mostly white people at the church, but this family was African American. They came for a few weeks and then stopped, and Tony wondered why. So, he reached out. He contacted the mom and connected with one of her sons, a sophomore in high school.
The boy had lost his dad at age 13, and Tony could tell he really needed that attention and some manly direction.
With the mother’s blessing, Tony stepped in as a father figure. Many Saturdays, Tony takes the boy with him to work on a farm outside the city—and pays him a good wage. They also talk just about every day after school.
Tony helped the boy open a bank account, and acts as his accountability; he has to give approval—based on how things are at school and what the money’s going to—before anything comes out of his account. This high school kid now has over six hundred dollars put away, and even more than that, he’s learning about saving and self-discipline—things that many high schoolers these days need to learn.
When the young man was arriving to school late, Tony took him to get an alarm clock and talked about how to get organized in the morning.
Tony’s commitment with that young man is nothing short of heroic. It’s the kind of stuff that a father does. And Tony—a white man with two young kids—stepped in to do this for a black teenager who needed a father. We can talk about being color blind, but I believe father power can overcome race issues, and Tony is a perfect example.
Dad, there are kids around you who need that kind of coaching and mentoring that Tony gave this boy. You know who they are.
After you make sure things are good at home, please find a way to invest your life in a child who needs you—no matter what his age or race.
Those of us who are committed dads must not limit our influence to our own households. We can all make a difference and live out Championship Fathering by encouraging more children.
Whether or not you grew up with your dad, what’s an example of a father figure who made a difference for you? Help other dads catch a vision for how they can make a difference by sharing your thoughts or on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- Think of one child you know who doesn’t have a dad. Fix his or her name in your mind, and maybe post it where you’ll see it often. Find a way to reach out and encourage him or her in the next week.
- When you notice another child you know who struggles in a particular area (managing money, getting to school on time, etc.), get involved and help him or her with some practical ideas.
- Read Edward’s essay to your family. Ask them who they know who might feel like that. Then, think of ways your family can encourage that child.
- Tell your child what you remember about his first steps, first day of school, and other milestones.
- Ask your child what skill she would like to learn from you, and then teach it. (Include a friend who doesn’t have a dad, if you can.)
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. We encourage you to help us change the culture of fathering in America by joining the Championship Fathering Team. You can also sign up for Carey’s weekly email tips by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.