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JUNE 16, 2013

A Sobering Lesson For


6/16/2013 12:01:00 AM - Michael Brown

As a new dad more than 35 years ago, I read a book about effective fathering, and one illustration

from one chapter, based on a real life story, has stayed with me ever since. It provides a sobering

lesson for fathers.

Before I get to that illustration, let me share an anecdote along with some eye-opening statistics that

underscore the critically important role that fathers play in the lives of their children. (Yes, men,

what you father is not just your “biological offspring.” It’s your kid!)

As for the anecdote, I can’t guarantee its accuracy, since I heard the account second (or third) hand,

but it rings true for many obvious reasons. I was told that some Catholic ministry workers were

reaching out to male inmates in a prison, and when Mother’s Day came, they asked the men if they

would like to send a card to their moms. The response was overwhelming, as virtually every prisoner

said “Yes” until the workers actually ran out of cards.

Buoyed by their success on Mother’s Day, they decided to get cards for Father’s Day, offering them

to the inmates so they could write notes of love and appreciation to their dads. This time, the

response was the exact opposite. They got absolutely no takers.

Again, I can’t verify the story, but I find it quite believable, even if exaggerated, and statistics cited by

my colleague Frank Turek back this up. In his book

Correct, Not Politically Correct, he writes that,

“Children from fatherless homes are:

Seven times more likely to live in povertya.

Six times more likely to commit suicideb.

More than twice as likely to commit crimec.

More than twice as likely to become pregnant out of wedlockd.

Worse off academically and sociallye.

Worse off physically and emotionally when they reach adulthood.”f.

I’m aware, of course, that some of these statistics are related to socio-economic factors as well, but

the reality is that broken, fatherless homes are part of the socio-economic dynamic, and so fatherless

homes are part of a larger, vicious cycle.

Now, to the illustration that so impacted me decades ago, as related by Gordon MacDonald in his


The Effective Father. The chapter was called “No Day Is Ever Wasted,” and it begins with the

story of James Boswell (1740-1795), most famous for his biography of Samuel Johnson, hailed by

1 of 2 6/16/2013 7:30 AM

A Sobering Lesson For Fathers - Michael Brown - Page full http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelbrown/2013/06/16/a-sobering-les...

literary critic Harold Bloom as the greatest biography ever written.

MacDonald writes that it was reported that Boswell “often referred to a special day in his childhood

when his father took him fishing. The day was fixed in his adult mind, and he often reflected upon

many of the many things his father had taught him in the course of their fishing experience


Because this was spoken of so often, “it occurred to someone much later to check the journal that

Boswell’s father kept and determine what had been said about the fishing trip from the parental

perspective. Turning to that date, the reader found only one sentence entered: ‘Gone fishing today

with my son; a day wasted.’”

I have often repeated that story with tears, sharing it as well with my two sons-in-law as they raise

their kids, and thinking of it often when hanging out with our four grandkids or even when spending

casual time with students in our ministry school. Who knows the impact that our lives can have on

others, for better or for worse?

As fathers, no day we spend with our kids is ever wasted, as they observe our manner of life and

speech, including our daily habits, the things that are important to us, how we handle pressure, the

way we relate to others, and most of all, the way we relate to them.

The impact made by a strong, good father is so powerful that psychologist Paul Vitz, himself a

former atheist, wrote an entire study on the connection between atheism and fatherlessness (or weak

or distant fathering; the book is entitled

Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism). In

other words, our views about the nature and existence of God can be shaped by the nature and

presence (or absence) of our earthly fathers. (These days we need to insert the caveat that the

solution to the problem of fatherlessness is not having two dads, since two dads don’t equal a mom,

and the world’s best father is still not a mother.)

It’s important, though, to remember that even in homes where fathers are physically present, they

are often absent in spirit and attitude, having their minds and hearts somewhere else, focused on

“more important things.”

This was something I had to fight as well, and I remember having dinner with our family one night

at home, our daughters by this time young teens. I had just returned from a major speaking

engagement and had my mind focused on the book I was writing at the time. Our older daughter Jen

turned to me as we ate and said, “Dad, you’re here, but you’re not here.” She had doubtless heard my

wife (her mom!) say this to me in the past, and she really did nail it that night.

Fellow fathers, perhaps this speaks to you?

Remember the lesson of Boswell’s father, and remind yourself that no day with your kids is ever

wasted. Then, you’ll celebrate every Father’s Day without regret.

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My wonderful 15 year old took her dad to Red Lobster to eat lunch and paid with her own $$, that was cool because we have not been out to eat much lately because it costs so dang much these days. Spent Saturday on the lake and was a good weekend... She leaves Wed. for IL and MI and will not return till mid July :cry2: But seeing family back there is important and she has gone with her Mom every year and we will carry on the tradition even though Mom is not with us.

Mikayla also makes me a hand painted shirt every year with her hand prints and a short message she makes up, this years was very special to me...

Every day with my daughter is special to me.....

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