The woods across the street beckoned a call to the boys on the block. They gathered at our house and mounted up for their adventures into the deep woods. The gathering spot was the tallest tree. It is an unusually tall elm and for whatever reason, soil, water, sun, this tree soars above the rest. It is easy to spot from the porch of our house and on occasion a small swirl of smoke would float out above the green canopy in the general area. I knew a lunch of hot dogs or frogs was cooking. Boys life.
Those adventures were over 20 years ago and that tall elm still stands. But life all around it has changed. The boys who once spent hours contemplating their futures in its shade have gone on to adulthood. The lives most of them are living are different than they had planned. Life got real and for most, hard.
Today the land all around the old elm has been scraped of vegetation. The old barns, the armadillos, deer, skunk and porcupine are all but gone. The dirt is being ready for concrete and homes. New life, new boys, new adventures.
As I walked my block this morning looking over the construction site and remembered back, all of those boys, except mine, was fatherless. I carry a heavy heart thinking I may have failed some of those boys by not caring for them very well. Could I have given better council, shared Jesus with them in a more intentional way? Did they speak to me and I wasn’t listening? Were there moments I missed that left them asking the questions, “do I matter, does anyone care about me, what is the point of this whole life thing.”
Most of these boys lived with mom’s who were raised in broken homes too. They had no dad or poor examples of fathering at best. I was angry more than once with the things the moms promoted and allowed. Two steps forward ten steps back with the boys. I want to say the moms tried the best they could with what they had but that was not always the case.
Recently two National Football League players chose to sit during the National Anthem. Many were angered by their disrespect for the flag and country. Once when I was young my brother and I sat during the anthem at a baseball game my dad took us too. I learned right then to never do that again, ever. I checked on the two player’s backgrounds and found one was abandoned by his birth father early on and the other raised by an abusive father. That tells me volumes. A boy must have validation and understanding from his father or a mentor who has earned the authority to speak into his life. That is where he usually gets his true moral compass.
In the movie Cowboy’s starring John Wayne there is a moment that takes my heart every time. Will Anderson, (John Wayne the rancher), has been shot up and beaten by the lead bad guy and cattle rustler (Bruce Dern). It’s early morning after the fight. The young boys he has trained to work the cows and spent every minute of the summer with are crowded around him. He knows he is dying.
“Summer is over. Boy’s I’m proud of ya… All of ya. Every man wants his children to be better’n he was. You are. Mr. Nightliger (the trusted camp cook), make sure these boys get back home.”
In that moment the boys are given the blessing from the man they loved, admired, looked up to. A man who earned the authority to speak deeply into their lives. They go on to wip the rustlers and take the cattle to market. They are a proud bunch of young men now riding into the town that day. Every boy needs that moment, they need to know they matter. They need to understand a father. My prayer is that somewhere along the way I gave those boys on the block words of affirmation. Somewhere along the trail they give their all to Jesus.
I have tried a lot of things in my life, even today, to get comfort, affirmation, acknowledged, loved. For most of my life I grasped at the wrong things and they never did give me what I was looking for. I have found just one place, one person who truly could fill that hole, Jesus. An emotional relationship with the one dad who has always been faithful and present. The one guy who has always ridden along side of me even when I was way off the trail.
Share Him with your KOZ Boys, your family, the kid next door. Be intentional. You may be the one tall tree in a forest thick with distractions and destruction. It may only be for a season, a day or just one conversation. Share the rescue brothers, it matters, you matter.