What knowledge or wisdom do you have that you could pass along to other dads (and to young men in general) to help them on their journey?
Growing up, I never labeled people as “fathered” and “un-fathered.” As a child, I was aware of the fact that many of the other African-American boys I grew up around didn't have a dad in their home, but I didn’t really think about them as not being "fathered."
I recall one time in the 7th grade when I was walking home with a classmate from school. I was answering a question about little league practice, and I mentioned that my dad was going to drop me off. I will never forget the stunned look on his face, and then him loudly exclaiming that I was "so lucky." In all honesty, I was confused as to what "luck" had befallen me. (It's not like my dad played professional sports or anything!)
It wasn't until my college years that I began to recognize the impact on my male peers who didn't have an engaged dad in the home. I would find myself frequently advising other students (not only African-American ones) on life decisions, often repeating the refrain, "Well, my dad always told me …."
The true impact of my father's wisdom became clear to me some years later, when my very dear friend (and godfather to my children) Jackey J. Smith remarked to me, "You know, I got a lot of fatherly advice by living vicariously through you."
It's true. Over the years, as we both worked our way through academic degrees, new careers, new marriages and newborn children, there were many moments when my advice to Jackey would begin with that all-too familiar refrain: "Well, my dad always told me …."
I have found that with more and more young men, I find myself relaying messages that I received from my own father. Furthermore, guys whom I have strong relationship with will now approach me, describe a situation and ask, "What would your father have said about this?"
Statistics clearly indicate that we are raising a generation of "un-fathered" men. The time-tested fatherly advice that I once shrugged off as just another lecture from dad – that is the same advice that these men now hold dear to their hearts. That's because these men grew up without an adult male who would take the time to sit down and give them that lecture.
The older I get and the more life I live, the more clearly I see the great benefits of being "fathered." Those benefits were a gift. Or, in the words of my 13-year-old classmate, I was "so lucky." As I read the words of Jesus – "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48) – I realize more than ever that I simply cannot hoard the treasure of fatherly wisdom that I have received. It is my duty to actively share that wisdom with those around me, particularly those who are moving through life with this significant disadvantage – one not of their own making.
Lord, help us to acknowledge this need and meet the demand placed upon us who have received so much.