I received a letter in which a man told me of his childhood experiences. He had been a juvenile delinquent as a preteen and teen, but a dramatic change took place when his father began spending more time with him. Here are excerpts from this man's letter:
"From the age of eight to fourteen I was a very bad boy. My father would leave for work at 3:00 in the afternoon, and come home at 3:00 in the morning. He was asleep when I got up, and by the time I got home from school he had gone to work. I rarely saw him, except for a few minutes on weekends.
"I got into lots of trouble. I stole everything I needed or wanted, including cigarettes, candy, food, and money. I was incorrigible, and did poorly in school.
"At fourteen I was arrested for stealing again and sent to a reform school. My father's first reaction was to be angry with me, but later he came to the realization that he had been partly to blame for not being more of a father to me. He reevaluated his life and decided to help me.
"He quit his nighttime job and took a daytime one that paid less, so he could spend time with me every day. When I came home from school, he was there. He took an interest in how I was doing in school, and helped me with my homework. We joined a men and boys club. Instead of me hanging out at a dingy pool hall, we went together to a recreation center where we played pool, handball, and basketball together--all the things I liked to do. He bought me a season pass at the local golf course, and took me golfing three or four times a week. We were together all the time.
"As my father showed me love and understanding, it changed my life. My grades at school improved until I made the honor roll. I made new friends who were studious and didn't get in trouble. I had been tough on the outside, but on the inside I had been crying out for love, attention, and companionship. My father's love, as demonstrated by the time he spent with me, was the key."
All children need a father or a father figure--someone they know admires them, has faith in them, enjoys their company, and looks forward to being with them. All children need someone who they know will be there to feel for them and pray for them when they're deeply disappointed, to hold on to them when they're about to lose hope, and to celebrate with them when their dreams come true.
Are your children getting that kind of love?
We often see stories on TV of otherwise ordinary people--teachers, pastors, police, etc.--who have helped bring about remarkable changes in young people's lives, even the worst of delinquents, because they gave them their time.
One such news spot featured a woman who had opened a home for troubled kids--runaways, castoffs, prostitutes, gang members--those who fall through the cracks of society. In the interview she said, "The children that I serve are the most unwanted children, the rejects of the nation."
When the interviewer asked some of the kids what they were doing before they came to the home they answered, "Taking drugs." "Fighting a lot." "Pimping girls." "Shooting people for fun."
When talking about the kids, the woman said, "They've lost all hope. They've lost trust in adults. We adults are too busy. We don't listen anymore. No one has time for the children anymore."
When asked what the children need, she responded, "These guys? It's a very simple formula. You know what these kids really need?--Motherly love. They want role models. They want people who will be honest with them. They want someone to discipline them. They want someone who can teach them responsibility, consequences. Someone to hold them, hug them. I don't give up on them. If you teach them to give up easily, they'll give up."
One of the older boys hugged this woman and said, "She's my mom. Not by blood, but in a sense, she's still my mom. She takes care of me."
When the kids were asked what changes had come about in their lives as a result of this woman, the meanest-looking kid, the one who used to shoot people for fun, said, "Look inside of us. We've got hope. We've got dreams. We care too. Now I want to go to college."
This woman's closing message to parents was: "Love your children. Don't give up on them. Love them till it hurts. That's what love is all about--loving unconditionally, till it hurts!"
We can easily lose sight of the power of one individual. We can depend too much on society as a whole--its institutions, government, schools--so we as individuals don't feel the need to take responsibility for children, whether our own or some whose paths simply cross ours, who may need us.
You could be part of God's plan of love and care for a young life. Your love, concern, and friendship could make a world of difference!
Written by Maria David and reprinted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.