According to the 2010 Census, of the 168,000 children living in Memphis, nearly 67,000 — about 4 in 10 — are living in a family with a female householder and NO FATHER PRESENT.
Later this month, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton will host the Second Annual Memphis Training Camp for Dads. (Wharton is writing a guest column about the issue that will run with your response.)
From your perspective, how big is this problem? How do you see if effecting your congregation, your community, the culture at large? What can/should be done about it?
I’m not a parent, so I can’t comment on this week’s question from a
parent’s perspective. But I had a wonderful father and can say a lot about his impact on me.
My dad was Larry Minor from Chilton County, AL, the peach capitol
of the universe. He was a teacher, coach, education administrator, deacon at his church, married to my mom for nearly 49 years, father of 3 daughters, grandfather to 6 great kids, a huge Auburn fan, a fisherman, and once was described by a boss as “Mr. Personality.” I adored him. Here’s my favorite way to describe his impact on me… He read to me when I was little, and my favorite book was Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.
For those who don’t know the story, Horton’s elephant ears enable him to hear the ultra tiny Whos when no one else can, so he puts their little speck of a world onto a clover flower and promises to protect them (“because a person is a person, no matter how small”). Others make fun of him for “hearing things,” steal the clover, and drop it into a humongous field of clover flowers so he can’t find it. I remember the first time we turned the page and saw the endless
field of clover, and I thought, “Oh no, they’re lost forever!” But Horton looks for them, “hour after hour… Till he found them at last! On the three millionth flower!” When we read that story, I somehow knew, even at three or four years old, that my dad was like Horton, that he would look for me if I was lost and wouldn’t stop till he found me. Here’s the impact: If my dad thought I was worth looking for like Horton looked for the Whos, then I must be valuable,
lovable, capable, etc. His Horton-ness allowed me to believe in myself and want to make him proud of me. My dad, then, is significantly responsible for who I became and what I’ve been able to do (along with my mom, I might add).
Clearly kids with absent parents miss an opportunity for the
kind of affirmation and inspiration that my dad gave me. And we have too many kids missing out. Here’s a big thank you to family members, teachers, foster parents, stepparents, religious organizations, civic organizations, neighbors, and others who are trying to fill in the hole left by absent parents, most of whom are fathers. But as Father’s Day approaches, I want to say to all the dads out there: be Horton to your kids and let them know that you are. That kind of
impact is transformative — I know whereof I speak!