The young boy was sitting on his front porch early that Saturday. The neighbors began to wake up as the morning light crept over the rooftops. The warm sun felt good breaking the stronghold the winter had the last few months. The sounds of other kids on the block scrambling to the car for a baseball game, fathers directing their sons on starting the mower, friends riding by on their bikes. It was going to be a good day. He was excited and sat quietly bouncing his knee, tapping a stick on the porch concrete, waiting.
Don was up and out early that Saturday too. He lives just a few doors down and his to-do-list for the day was long. As he passed the boy on the porch he waved then stopped. They know each other well. “Hey what’s up,” Don asks in a joyful tone happy to see the boy. “I am waiting on my dad, he is coming to get me today that’s why I have to stay here and not go to KOZ camp this weekend,” the boy explains with an expectant excitement in his voice. “Ok well those guys are going to miss you. See you later, tell your dad hi.” And the day begins for them both.
Don is a KOZ (Kids Outdoor Zone Adventure Ministry) leader who has become the Pied Piper in his neighborhood for boys. He lives in an unassuming house full of family including adult kids, grandkids, and his wife. Each day full and busy. In all the craziness that is life for him today, the demands of corporate leadership, being a husband, dad, grandfather, he has a heart for the boys in his neighborhood and they know it.
“I love Mr. Don,” Jake, 10 years-old, said with a confident smile. “I can go to his house and feel welcome anytime. If I was ever scared I would go there, it just feels safe there.” When the word got out about KOZ and Mr. Discoe the path through the grass leading to his front door became worn. The boys of the neighborhood have a man that has invited them into adventure and they longed for it. Most days when Mr. Don pull’s into his driveway in the evening he is besieged by a handful of boys as he swings his door open. “Mr. Don, Mr. Don.”
On this particular weekend Don had sent a group of his KOZ boys to a Quail Hunt camp. Each year there are opportunities for the boys to spend time at KOZ camps and outings with other leaders teaching hunting, fishing, and mountain climbing. The trips are “over-the-chain cool and the stories among the boys who have been exclaim full boyhood outdoor exhilaration.
Today, on any given Saturday half of the boys in America wake up without a dad or male role model in their home. In some communities it can be over 70%. The battle for the heart of a boy has been raging for years. Society, social media, their community in many ways tells them sex before marriage, drugs, crossing the line, pushing the limits is OK. On the other hand they are told they need to sit still, be a good boy, and conform. For convenience the parents are told their boys are better drugged than to modify their environment. In a recent article it was reported that by the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed powerful stimulants to “normalize” them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs.”
It was not long ago the idea of drugging a boy and trying to keep him still would not have even been a thought. Boys were sent outside to run, play, and get dirty. They explored the neighborhood, hung from trees in the yards and scavenged the ditches and water ways for debris to build forts. They played army, cowboy and wrestled. They rode bikes without helmets jumping dirt mounds and curbs. They shot bb guns and carried pocket knives. They slept at night and did OK in school.
Don drives by the boy on the porch as he returns home. The boy gives a half-hearted smile and wave. It’s just at noon. He stops and rolls down the passenger window, “you still here?” “Yes sir, my dad is running late but he is on his way.” “OK, see ya later.” Don rolls forward into his drive. His heart is tender for the boy, he begins praying for his dad to get there soon.
Most of the cautions and advice to be a man were once given by dad. He told them when to be tough, discipline taught them to be afraid of his belt and listened to him when he was serious. His hugs mattered, his help putting the chain back on their bike, building a tree fort or mastering a fishing rod were of unmeasurable importance. Time around a camp fire, showing up for a baseball game and listening to a story from the boys day were foundational times in his life. They still are, when they happen.
Yes it was not always perfect but it was better. John Eldridge tells us in his book, Wild at Heart, that every man has a father wound. Some are small and indistinguishable but others are gaping wounds that guide them down a trail of personal destruction, pain and confusion. Statistics tells us that the odds are stacked against a fatherless boy. That boys are far more likely to fail at school, struggle in relationships, take drugs, go to jail if they are fatherless. Almost every area of manhood is breached by the fatherless wound.
Late that evening Don was in his front yard and the young boy who had been on his porch that day was in his yard. Don walked over to ask how his time with his dad went. “He couldn’t make it. He just now called and told me he had a fever and wasn’t going to be coming,” the boy managed a tight upper lip. “Well you will get to see him soon,” Don’s heart was crushed. He has seen boys who have had their hearts wounded by a no-show father before. “KOZ Saturday is coming soon, we will do some cool stuff, you gonna be there?” “Yes sir, if my dad doesn’t come to get me that day.” “OK, fair enough.”
One day in the life of a boy and his neighbor Mr. Don.
Mark 9:37, “Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives Me, and whoever receives Me does not receive Me but the One who sent me.”