Everyone who has read my on-line magazine knows that I don't think much of Bill Cosby's vicious generalizations abouts blacks. I never liked The Cosby Show either, but I guess that's not really relevant.
It did get me thinking a lot about fatherhood. Coaching basketball and being around the game means you encounter a lot of kids--many are without the active prescence of a father. It transcends race and class, gender and color, income and religion. When I first began coaching, an older more experienced coach named Jim Wall (over 500 wins in the state of Texas) told me that he could, after the first two hours of any practice, point out the boys whose fathers weren't active in their lives. I didn't believe it--largely because I am just plain skeptical on some things. Now, ten years and hundreds of kids later, I know that Coach Wall is right. I don't know if you can determine this after a two-hour practice, but it does become abundantly clear really quickly.
Why Dads? What is so important about Dads? I give this a lot of thought. My bio-father didn't want me/couldn't take care of me/suffered from alcoholism/ and died before my 12th birthday. I think that in 11 years, I had eight. mayben nine interactions with him. My Dad who cared for me died of a myocardial infarction when I was nine. That translated into attending lots of father/son athletic banquets alone. (Finally, I just gave up going to them because it all seemed ridiculous-me, the only kid showing up alone.)
Simply stated, I learned. at an early age, to just cope. I missed my Father and my Dad, what little I knew of them both. It wasn't until many years later that I understood the root of my misplaced, unfocused adolescent rage. I am thankful for basketball because it provided an outlet for me-- *a place where I could just could simply, "be" I was crushed by the loss of them, but didn't understand the long-term effects. Basketball was something that I could do alone-- hours upon hours upon hours of drilling twenty-foot jump shots; each one healing the breaks in my teenage heart.
I have made diligent efforts to be available and a part of the lives of my sons. Sometimes it's easy, often it isn't. With wonderful Ryan, the distance is an uneven burden, geographically and emotionally. With Michael, it's too complicated to discuss. With Jon, my firstborn, it is a treasure that means more to me than life itself.
The lone valuable insight to be inferred from Cosby's inane commentary is that kids need fathers. That, alone, is the only point to which I will concede value. The elitist always condemn; either through condescension or viciousness. And he remains just another stone-throwing black elitist.
When Christ Jesus was in the manger, as the story goes, three wise men came from the East bearing gifts. I've often wondered how the wise men found Joe, Mary, and Jesus, but I guess that is why they are called
Fathers have to do lots of things for sons. I've pondered this and come up the three gifts, or bodies of knowledge, I wish my father(s) would have given me. It is my goal to give these gifts to my sons.
Gift #1: Learn to Despise Pride and Selfishness-- They are Devasting in
their power to Destroy.
Pride, it seems, is the 'original sin.' As the scriptures tell us, a created being decided that he would 'ascend above the stars, placing his throne above that stars of God, and be like Most High.'
How many of life travails and snares lurk in the shadow of our pridefulness and our desire to serve 'self' at the expense of serving another? We all should be far more willing to embrace the idea of servitude, of
putting the needs and wants of others before our own, and a simple commitment to helping*not only when it is convenient, but when it is difficult. It is, however, the banality of pride, ingeniously coupled with our
need to live 'me-first' lives that often seals our fate, allowing us to not only not finish the race, but end up on a different track from the one on which we began. Gift lesson #1-teach your sons the danger
associated with pride and the self-destructive imperative that exists as we focus only on ourselves.
Gift #2: Friends will influence you in ways you can't imagine-- and, it is the ways you can't imagine that can get you
Two of the kids that played basketball on my son's high school team are in jail. Although they are imprisoned for different reasons, a common thread exists: At a critical moment of choice, their friends counselled them to do evil. One kid is serving eight, the other eighty. And these were good kids from fine homes. Kids who should have known better. Their friends-- their posse-- were active partners in their demise. Gift lesson #2-- teach your sons that friends involved in evil, criminal activities will hasten their own downfall. And, the evil I am talking about isn't stealing or driving drunk, but things like being rebellious to parents, and subtle acts of deception. Little things become big things. See the pattern. Note to Dads: Know the parents of the kids who have influence with your son. Would you want them giving your kid advice?
Gift #3: Recognize, appreciate and hold sacred the value of time, but never lose sight of eternity.
Being young, by definition, means that you have more tomorrows than yesterdays. It is too bad that reality lulls one into a fall sense of security about the future. As beings on this planet, we live in both time
and eternity. They are connected, but fundamentally at odds with one another. We cannot hold the essence of both in our minds at the same moment. We are eternal beings, going ever-forward toward a place where time is no longer reckoned, but yet, our daily lives are governed and captured by time.
The paradox, alone, can bring on a migraine. How do i juxtapose the two ideas? I mean, since I am an eternal being, why be concerned about what's happening now. Let's just push forward toward eternity. Or, eternity is too far away. I may as well not even consider it because I don't know anyone who has ever gone to eternity and come back. For all I know, eternity is a fictitious things, dreamt by a writer, but somehow got morphed from fiction into reality.
It's all a matter of what you believe. And, most of us fathers don't clarify our own belief structure about time versus eternity-- so, how can we teach a position to our sons? Our fathers didn't instruct us; therefore we never considered these questions and, by proxy, fail to educate our sons.
What is the future? Is it reserved for others, or do each of us arrive there at the rate of 1440 minutes a day, seven days a week, 365.25 days a year.
The challenge, then, looks, like this: Gift#3-- Ponder the question of time versus eternity. Teach your sons what you have learned. Teach them that daily choices about time directly relate to destiny-- and destiny is a destination-- that destination is eternity. What you do today matters. What you do at this moment matters. Time versus eternity. Destiny. Choices. Show your sons how it all fitly joins togeter, not like a rubric, but indeed, like your grandmother's quilt.
I tell the kids that I work with: "You can only have one father, but you can never have enough Dads." Dads are cool, compassionate, and encouraging. Dads protect and counsel, challenge and correct, embrace and enjoin. Dads help you become better. Do you want the world better?