Yesterday morning after I finished my run, I walked out on the pier that graces the park, as I usually do, to enjoy the view while I cooled down, stretched, and practiced some end-of-workout meditation. Usually, I’m alone on that pier because it’s typically early in the morning.
Yesterday morning was one of the rare occasions I wasn’t alone out there. Besides the birds flying overhead, including the eagles that frequent that area, there was a young man on his cell phone, oblivious to my presence. His cap was cocked a bit, his pants riding too low, feet shuffling in contradiction to the attitude he worked hard to portray. I wasn’t fooled. Something about him touched my heart.
I felt like it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to turn around and leave, leaving him to his private conversation, but hearing what he said to the person on the other end made me unable to turn away.
“My dad called me, dude, and he said, ya know, I’m really sorry for what I done. I know I never got to know Cory very much and what I done was really messed up. I shoulda at least called. And then he says…”
Those words, and the ones that followed, were laced with some colorful expletives, but I saw that young man as a confused little boy who was trying to make sense of words spoken by a father who had been missing from his life.
I walked out of listening range to allow him privacy, yet nonchalantly watched his body language say what I couldn’t hear his words say.
My heart broke for him.
Having worked with children from broken families when I was a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and in the counseling office of a high school, I saw so many confused, neglected children trying to make sense of life. And oftentimes those children made poor choices in the process. Choices that unfortunately too often defined who they were to the people subjected to those choices. People who didn’t know their story.
While I’m not making excuses for negative behavior, and I certainly believe consequences are necessary to teach (teach, not punish), I think it’s important to also understand what these children may have lived through. And may be still living with. The hell that is very possibly their reality on a daily basis. There were more than a couple of times that I spoke with my husband about a troubled child and told him I so wished I could take him/her home to show him/her what love, stability and safety look like. To which my practical husband responded the same way each time. “Honey, they aren’t puppies. You can’t just take them home.” 🙂
With Father’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to give a shout out to all the father’s, stepfathers, uncles, grandpas–to all men–to never underestimate the powerful role you play in the lives of the children whose lives you touch. They see and hear so much more than you realize. Especially by what is not being said or done. Be courageous and fearless in teaching them morals and values, in loving them no matter what and through all things. Thank you for making the difference in the life of a child–if even just one. Because that one will make a difference to another, and that one to another…
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Parenting may not be a walk in the park, but as happens with a walk in the park, it’s a beautiful process. One in which you can see the fruits of your labor, some seasons just happen to be better and easier than others.
When I left the park, that young man was still talking on the phone with the same intensity as when I first came by him. My heart gave him a hug and I prayed for him and for all the lost and hurting children.