[fatherless generation] chapter 6: running to stand still

Written by Elora Ramirez

elora is a storyteller who lives in austin with russ, her chef-husband who flutters her pulse. elora poses as a teacher during the day, working with high school students and dreaming of ways she can get back to africa. she loves words, believes rescue is possible, is addicted to coffee, and is a 20-something with a 19 year old surrogate son named devonte. you can read more of her story at eloranicole.com

April 1, 2011


The fatherless generation embraces pain to escape the anguish of a missing father. They believe and live the lies of rejection until the lie becomes the truth. Like Legion, they isolate themselves to escape the pain through drugs or self-injury – sometimes even suicide. They have forgotten their own names and have become hell-bent on destroying themselves. And they are crying out for help.

As a teacher, I see hurting teens walk through my door daily. All of them have a story – and it takes months for them to believe I mean it when I tell them their story can change the world. Sit awhile and listen to them and you’ll find one common thread behind their tears: the ones who deal with the worst – the drugs, the cutting, the coping mechanisms built into their psyche – these are the ones without a father and they are aching to be known.

I met Emmaleona my second year of teaching. I still remember the way the felt tip marker bumped along her fresh scars as I wrote love in big bold letters across her arm so she could remember. You’re worth fighting for I said and she smiled through tears. Later, I stood before the counselor and fought my own tears when she told me to treat her with discipline, not sympathy. I felt the righteous anger rise up within me as she shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes and said, “they’re just out for attention, Elora. It’s simple. Don’t let her use the restroom. Don’t talk about the cutting. And please, don’t make her think she can find a sympathetic ear with you – it’s the last thing someone like her needs.”

I wrestled then and I wrestle now. Of course these students are looking for attention. It’s because no one else will listen. The following year, I implemented the line game with my students. The premise was simple: I ask a question and students who have done it step to the line. I start with small things – a movie release, a new album, a big event. Once they’re comfortable, I throw out bigger questions: “Step up to the line if you’ve smoked weed. Step up to the line if you’ve woken up and not remembered the night before. Step up to the line if a teacher has ever called you stupid.”

It was through this game one of my students realized she didn’t believe in herself. Crying, she looked at me with desperate eyes. “I’m sixteen, Mrs. Ramirez. How did it take this long for me to realize I don’t believe I can achieve my dreams?” Her tears left wet stains on my shirt and I didn’t even hesitate in saying, “Well, regardless of what you think, I believe in you.” She stepped away from me then and wiped her cheeks clean. Sniffing, she looked at me and tilted her head, “you know something…that’s the first time anyone has ever said that to me.”

Later that day, sitting at my desk and laughing at the discussion after a class’ shot at the line game, another student turned and looked at me. With serious eyes he asked, “do you think you could get every teacher to do this?”

“What, so you could have a free period of talking to your friends?” I joked.

He shook his head and raised an eyebrow, “Mrs. Ramirez, all we want is someone to listen. You listen. You’re the only teacher who ever does.”

I’m not sharing these vignettes because I believe I’ve found the secret ingredient pertinent to healing. There are still plenty of situations where I’m lost with the brokenness of this generation – like the student who visited me last semester and confessed his desire to commit suicide. Hyped up on drugs, lost in the gang lifestyle, he sat next to me and fought the tears. I was exhausted and wanted to run from his pain. It was too much – too raw. Just six months prior he was thriving in school – AP classes, top of his game. He received a scholarship to a local college and was anxious to get out of the house. When the tears finally began pooling in my own eyes as I begged him not to end his life, he gave me a weak smile and said, “You should sing You are my Sunshine. It always makes me happy” and then he turned around and walked away.

Daily, I’m faced with the stories of teens who fight for survival from their pain. Numb, so many of them inflict trauma just so they can feel. No one else makes them feel alive – in fact they feel rather invisible to the world – so they overdose on ecstasy or close their eyes while sleeping with the one who gives them a second glance or hide their sadness with rebellion set deep in their bones. You see the isolation in their refusal to believe the truth: their stories matter and there is Someone who loves them.

But keep listening. Keep pushing back. Keep smiling and keep looking them in the eye. One of these days they’ll break. You can’t keep listening to lies when Truth is staring you in the face.



  1. rtucker

    I know just how you feel from my youth min days… So many hurting kids waiting to know the Father… http://bit.ly/hWr7Cw

  2. Chase

    always a pleasure reading your blogs

    • Anonymous

      thank you, chase. we’re grateful for your friendship.

  3. @bibledude

    this post literally brings tears to my eyes as i read the stories of these young people who are dealing with the pain of emptiness that is caused by adults and parents…

    elora, you rock. not just because you are doing such great work to be a positive influence in these kids lives, but also because you challenge me to be a better dad. i have an eight year old who asked me to go outside an play horse with him just a little while ago, and after reading something like this, i’m glad that i stopped what i was doing so that i could do that with him.

    i’m really struggling with project because i can relate to that emptiness that you speak of here, and because i’m determined to have an impact on this issue of fatherlessness (physical or virtual)…

    thank you.

  4. Crystal


    This post rocked me to the core. There are SO MANY kids out there who are dying for attention … dying for someone to really take the time to get to know them, to hear what they are saying, to love them, to believe in them. It’s so hard to be a faithful adult in the lives of these kids … but as difficult as it is, it’s such a powerful experience.

    You are changing lives Elora Nicole … in a big and powerful way. Thank you for sharing these stories.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[fatherless generation] chapter 6: running to stand still

by Elora Ramirez time to read: 4 min