by Archie Wortham
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said. Margaret Mead said, “The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children.” Kids are the fabric upon which our society will be built, and dads, no one is more important in helping them see that, or nurturing them than we are.
We have the highest measure of civilization at stake. That measure of civilization lies in the hearts of dads.
I’m a dad’s advocate. Always have been, even before I knew I was. Will always be one. And I’m trying my best to take as many dads to the level of self-actualizing that my own research and readings are taking me.
My dad wasn’t around for me. My mother left him before I was born. I can remember being taken to my aunt’s [my father’s sister] and deposited there for two weeks. Those two weeks changed my life, and as so often happened in black families, a relative raised me. Welfare was not in the equation. Adoption was an alternative. I grew up knowing I didn’t have what a lot of kids had. But I had a lot many of them didn’t. My mom and dad may not have been there to raise me, but because of the way my aunt was raised, I was raised by my dad’s ideas on how life should be.
Did I know how blessed I was? At the time I didn’t. I wanted what every kid who grew up knowing he had a living mom and pop. I wanted them. I also grew up as any other pubescent young man in the 60s grew. I was selfish, I wanted what I wanted. But by the grace of God, and a hickory stick (actually switch) my aunt and her husband provided. They gave me food, shelter, and a desire to do better than my dad did.
Idle promises he didn’t keep hurt me. Idle pledges to pick me up that never happened nourished me. Idle dreams of what I could become whenever I saw him gave me hope. I hurt for his love, understanding and time. I lived for the word he was proud of me. I longed for the dream where I treated my kids better.
As many of you reading this know, marital commitment is a two-way street. Mom and dad don’t always get along, but I learned early that even if you think you can’t work it out, your kids should not be cast off as a mistake, inconsequential, or unimportant. I have vowed that if my wife and I ever split, I would fight for my kids, and by God we are still together, partially because they mean as much to her as they do to me. At times, I hate that. I feel if I can continue to find the nourishment in our relationship my father couldn’t, our sons’ mother will continue to view me as the man of her dreams.
And my dream? That all men can find a way to come together and realize the part they have to play in the societal symphony that has yet to be written where the echoes of their hearts are their children calling their names as the heroes that made them who they are.
Indeed, dads give our kids the needles and pins to sew together the fabric we have provided them as the backdrop upon which our lives will be measured. Author’s note: You can reach Archie Wortham at firstname.lastname@example.org.