When listening to the podcast by brothers Tony and Phil, I was struck afresh by this fact, “According to the Washington Times, 15 million children in the U.S. are being raised without fathers this year.” This is a breathtaking statistic. It almost causes one to read by it quickly so as not to feel its chilling effect or consider its far reaching implications.
Thinking about this current crisis, I was reminded of a gentleman in our neighborhood when I was growing up. Being one of the younger fathers, he became the dad of the neighborhood. He could outrun most kids. He could hit a softball farther, throw one faster, and played harder than most of them, too. He umpired in the Little League, coached the church boys’ softball team, and taught many of the church’s children (and adults) how to bowl. Although most of us had fathers in the home, everyone affectionately called him ‘dad’. He will soon be 82 years old. However, to the kids in my neighborhood he is still ‘dad’.
This man never attempted to replace the dads in the neighborhood. He simply came at the right times to do things the other dads were either unwilling or unable to do. He was not a member of a national organization (e. Big Brothers). He did what he did because of the character he possessed.
“Fifteen million children are being raised without fathers this year.”
Once I asked him about his younger years. He told me he was born in the South in a poor family. His father drifted in and out of their home, causing instability and emotional trauma, and constantly abused his mother. His older brother joined the military to help out financially, and ‘dad’ had to quit school in the seventh grade to pick and chop cotton to help with the family expenses. His life as a young boy was filled with one disappointment after another. He vowed that if and when he had a family of his own, he would be twice the father his dad was. According to us kids in the neighborhood, he was many times that.
What kind of neighborhood dad was he? He was kind of a pinch hitter dad. He was not a starter, but was always available at the right time for the right circumstance. Playing in the yard, giving rides and advice, he always seemed to be at the disposal of the neighborhood kids without neglecting his own. Many times his own children would invite the other kids to come and talk to their dad.
I don’t know what the statistics were in those days of children being raised with no fathers. I’m almost sure it was not 15 million. The single mom crisis was just coming on the horizon then. However, I do wonder what affect pinch hitter dads could have on the current crisis of fatherless homes. Especially pinch hitter dads who are characterized by biblical manhood qualities as discussed by Thabiti — a man focused on honoring God, his parents, and women. That kind of man is also a man who is true to his word, pinch hitting for a man who has no interest in these things.
The circumstances and opportunities are clearly before us. In many cases one does not even have to go outside of his own family relationships. Do you perhaps know a nephew, niece, little cousin, or a grandchild who needs a pinch hitter? What was once commonplace perhaps needs to be rediscovered in the African-American community.
Maybe some of you brothers are already pinch hitting. I would love to hear how that’s going for you. Maybe if you share your story, you will encourage someone else. So how bout’ it? Who’s out there steppin’ up to the plate?