The fallout from fatherlessness is more than an individual tragedy. It impacts more than the fractured family, the single mother and her children. Fatherlessness is a catastrophic wreck that is poisoning our families, communities, and nation. No one remains unaffected.
It’s easy for me not to acknowledge this issue of fatherlessness. I can simply shrug it aside as a problem of “poor black people.” And if you want the truth, that’s mostly how I perceived the issue. ::insert judgement::
I have a dad. A dad that was there when I was growing up. A dad that’s still there today when I need business advice, parenting advice. Sure, he didn’t come to all of my basketball games or teach me how to rebuild a ’57 Chevy, and I may not always go to him when I need advice. But he was and is available. For a wealthy kid from the burbs, I didn’t see fatherlessness as my problem.
If I’m completely honest, I wish I could ignore the fatherlessness issue. Ignorance requires no action.
Fortunately, my eyes have been opened. And I realize we are surrounded. We are being engulfed and overtaken. We are being eaten alive. By a fatherless generation. As David Blankenhorn puts it:
Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation….It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems…
Youth suicide (63%)
Teen pregnancy (71%)
Homeless/Runaway children (90%)
Children with behavioral disorders (85%)
High School dropouts (71%)
Imprisoned youth (85%)
The common denominator here? Fatherlessness.
And it’s not their problem. It’s ours. And it costs us $112 billion annually. Still think it’s their problem?
Everywhere we look, people are carrying this unseen weight, this burden, of fatherlessness. This shadow that seems to lurk over their shoulders. It creates an unspoken agenda. Working 60 hours per week to earn a promotion? That person might just be trying to please a Dad that isn’t there. Thinking “If only he could see me, he would be so proud.” Tim, your neighbor down the street, who knocked out grad school and is now kicking law school in the face? He’s hoping Dad will be impressed enough that he’ll come back around. That he will finally be worthy enough of his Dad’s nearness.
Because that’s what they’re looking for. Dad to be near.
Proximity is our contstant urge to be close to Dad, to touch his beard and to hold his attention. It is a primal desire that we never outgrow. More than doing and performing, we long to be near him. (Emphasis mine)
There is a void that needs to be filled. A nearness that is far away. And a fatherless generation is filling it with whatever substitute they can find.
If you are like me, you are mad. Mad at the statistics, mad at the cost, mad at the fathers that abandon their kids, mad at the pain they cause. Mad at your own ignorance and bias towards this issue. I think that’s ok. But we have to turn that anger into passion. And that passion into action.
Most states, when planning for future numbers of prison beds, base it on the reading level of current 4th graders (re-read that statement). Here in Oklahoma City, a group of us has gotten involved in some reading/tutoring for a local elementary, rated as the 2nd worst in the OKC school district. The amount of 3rd graders reading at level? 0%.
That number breaks me. When we walk into that cafeteria each week, I don’t see a bunch of future killers, thieves, rapists, drug dealers. I see kids full of hope. Dreams. Life. I see a kid wearing a Kevin Durant jersey who, when asked what grade he is in, confidently answers, “I’m in Kindergarten! I’m going to be President some day.”
It’s on me to show up every week to make sure he always believes he’s capable of that.