"Out of the Box" Dads by Leroy Barber

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This is a hard week in my neighborhood. Father’s Day is not a holiday that brings good feelings for a lot of people growing up in the city. There are a large number of families where dad is missing, so Father’s Day becomes a source of pain rather than a celebration.

I can relate to this feeling as most of my teenage years were without my dad in the home. Father’s Day was usually spent watching other families and listening to stories of dads that were present in the lives of their children. That was a joy that I longed for as a teen, and if I get a little more transparent, it is the relationship I wish I could have even now. My children didn’t grow up with granddad. Absent dads don’t just take joy from their children; it even reaches to their children’s children. Absentee fathering harms generations.

There is another side to this story. There were many dads around when I was a teen that showed interest in my life – men who took time to take me to ball games and make sure I had a male role model in my life. Many of them had children of their own and included my brothers and me in their family times. There were spiritual dads who took time to teach and disciple me along the way. Thank God for great men who thought it was important to teach and train young men who were not their biological sons but in every other way took seriously the role of dad.

“Dad” is not a role you play just for your own child – it is a role that any man can take on as a gift to children who need to be loved by a father. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. I believe God himself steps in the lives of children forsaken by fathers, and I believe the hands and feet of this scripture is people taking time to love and mentor seemingly fatherless children.

I have been honored to be a father, a part of my life that brings me overwhelming joy. I am trying with all my heart not to repeat the sins of my father by staying married to Donna and being a dad that is present in the lives of my children. I have been given the grace by God to stop the nasty pattern set by my dad by remaining present, and it has been a wonderful journey. The road trips, ballgames, water fights, bedtime renditions of Green Eggs and Ham, homework, acne, proms, and graduations – what a joy!

Thank you so much, God, for letting me be a Dad, not just to my kids but to every child I have had the opportunity to know, teach, love, and nurture.