It was fishing day with the KOZ boys. I don’t know any boy who doesn’t like fishing, especially a KOZ boy. For a summer day it seemed cool. It was over 100 every day leading up to fishing day, but somehow on this day it was low 90s with cloud cover and a breeze. It was going to be a good day.
Fishing is an art and there are so many ways to experience it. Ice fishing, bass fishing, pike fishing, fly fishing, cat fishing. Salt water, deep sea, wade fishing, pier fishing, jetty fishing. Lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and even ditches. There are all kinds of gear and nets and boats. Fishing is available just about anywhere any time.
But if you really want to define what a boy likes about fishing, or anyone for that matter, it’s not fishing they like, it’s catching. On this day the boys were catching. Bass and perch were plentiful. They were learning to use live grasshoppers caught in the tall grass and plastic worms. It was a good pond, on a good day, catching.
I was sitting watching two of the older boys interacting. I couldn’t hear them but I could see them. Then, what seemed out of the blue, one boy pushed the other down the steep bank into the mud and shallow water. The natural response, the boy in the mud ran up the bank and they were toe-to-toe when I jumped up and stepped in.
I have had a few boys go toe-to-toe before. I don’t like it. I got close and ordered them both to come to me. I escorted them to the back of my truck, dropped the tail gate and told them both to sit there — now, until I tell you different. Plenty of times in the past, there on the tail gate, they have dropped the anger and returned to being friends. I insert a little wisdom speech and they are back doing whatever they were doing before. Not this time.
We never know what the true story is for the boys who come to KOZ, not really. Often there are bad things happening in their homes, at school, or in their hearts. This one surprised me. The boys kept at it. Then I heard Jesus say, “Take it down further.” I had them follow me to a small log cabin up the hill. They didn’t want to, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I just knew Jesus was walking with us. We went inside, and I sat them across from each other. One of them began.
“Dude you can’t talk about my mom like that. You keep saying she is a hippo, asking how is my hippo mom. All those things, they hurt.” Then the other replied, “I don’t care.” That was when it got real. “Dude, that hurts and you don’t know what I am going through. My dad is having cancer treatments and doesn’t pay any attention to me. He can’t come outside or do anything with me.” He shook as he wept from deep inside. The other exploded, “You don’t know what I am going through either. I had to get my mom off the floor and put her in the shower before I came here. She was stoned out of her mind again. I have to watch over my brother and I don’t have a dad around. I am tired of people picking on me. I’m little and I can’t fight back so all I have are my words.” He shook as he began crying. That was when Jesus came close.
The boy whose dad has cancer and did the pushing got up and went over to the other. Crying he put his arm around him and told him he was sorry, he had no idea. They began apologizing to each other and crying.
I got up, told them to come find me when they were ready. I walked out. That was all I could take. I broke down and began to cry. My heart was hurting for them. Why do they have to live in this hardship? I hate it. I felt so proud of them in the same moment. I walked around the pond looking at the other 14 boys there. What was going on behind the scenes in their home, heart, soul? How can I help? More, Jesus, more.
The boys eventually came out and began fishing. We didn’t share with anyone else what happened. It was just a moment. I wish I could tell you that that was the last time they struggled between each other or the other boys. Boys are boys. But in that moment, I understood the place inside they were operating from. I have been there.
My wife laughs that I am not allowed to have a ranch or farm. She says if I did I would take in every boy who came across the door into KOZ. Funny, once when I was a little guy I told my mom I wanted a farm to have a place for boys who didn’t have parents. They could come and live there. Mrs. Greaney is probably right, but in our hearts I think we would both love a farm filled with boys to love on.
The brokenness in this world is vast and dark. Boys are desperate to be heard, loved, cared for. They long to know the answers to the questions they have. How do I do this? Do I even matter? Why should I believe in or trust a heavenly father when my dad doesn’t even care about me? Now more than ever before our boys need us.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:56
There is an old cowboy saying, “You can’t fix a broken wagon wheel, but you can use the parts to build a new one.” I love that, I believe it. KOZ works on building new wagon wheels.
A farm would be a good place to build new wagon wheels. Just sayin’.
Founder, Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ)