How important are fathers, really?
Ask anyone who didn’t have one.
Aaron Blue is The Charis Project’s Founder and CEO. His father, Ken Blue, tells his story of growing up without a father in his book, The Divine Project: Live Your Best Life. “I was born in an old farmhouse without electricity or indoor plumbing… I was nine years old when my parents split. My mom was 7 months pregnant with their third child.” His father moved to Canada to avoid paying child support. “We were poor and lived in junk houses… I had one pair of pants to last the school year… we had no phone or TV (Maybe that wasn’t so bad). We couldn’t afford proper dental care and I lost most of my original teeth.”
Ken’s childhood was nothing but struggle. He fell through the cracks in school. No one noticed that he couldn’t read because he needed glasses for several years. He did not thrive. “With my height, funny spectacles, speech impediments, and uneven gate, the predatory bullies culled me from the herd. I was beaten often.”
In 8th grade the principal of his school told his mother he would probably not make it through high school, and she should consider some kind of menial occupation for him.
“Through the years, I have read dozens of books on child and developmental psychology. Based on all I have read, there is a very slim chance that my story should have played out as it has. Single-parent poverty is devastating for children, especially boys. Statistically the effects on academic and social outcomes are decidedly negative. A survey analyzing forty-three studies over the past 30 years found that children raised in single parent poverty had lower IQ scores, worse grades in school and higher dropout rates on average; they are more prone to alcohol and drug abuse as well as sexual promiscuity; and their rates of incarceration and suicide are higher than average. There are some outliers, referred to as resilient children, but the vast majority of children raised in single parent poverty face what on psychologist calls “the gloomy prospect.”
The book is the story of how Ken’s story changed both internally and externally after one night, drafted into the Vietnam War, he realized he wasn’t afraid of dying, he was afraid that when he died his life wouldn’t have meant anything. “I couldn’t stand the idea that my short, stupid existence had amounted to nothing.”
He prayed, “God, you can have what’s left of my life. Just don’t let me come up short.” It’s a good story. You can read his book here.
Aaron’s childhood, was completely different. The hopelessness and poverty that his father seemed trapped in as a child was not Aaron’s experience at all, because his father was determined to be a different kind of father than his own father had been. For starters, he would be there.
Aaron’s parents were determined to change the patterns of their own families and give their children the best start at life that they could. They learned everything they could about parenting well. They were as consistent as they could possibly be and provided a stable and stimulating childhood for their 8 children.
When Aaron talks to our family support teams, this is one of the things he tells them. “When you go out into the field and meet and encourage parents, you are giving them the tools to make a better future for their children, and for their whole family. The lives of their grandchildren can be so much better than their lives are right now.”
“The family that my father grew up in would have qualified as clients of our organization. They were that poor. I am living proof that a family can completely change in a generation.”
Aaron doesn’t remember ever having to worry about having clothes to wear, or food to eat. He is relentlessly generous with what he has, because his parents lived with an abundance mindset, and passed it on to him. They gave Aaron the foundation he needed to not just have to worry about his own family’s survival, but to be able to devote his life to healing and strengthening thousands of struggling families and giving them the tools to survive and become strong enough to lift their children up to a level they could never have dreamed of reaching. He can now work to give many families a future.
How important is it to have a father? How important is it to grow up in a strong healthy family with empowered parents who have the support they need to raise their children well?
“My parents laid such a strong foundation for me that my life is a wide-open book of possibilities. My goal as a father is to reach as far and a high as I can, so that when my children stand on my shoulders they can reach even farther.”
“If I can give other parents the gift of hope for their future, and their children’s future, and the tools to lay that firm foundation for their children to stand on, then I will have begun to give as much as was given to me.”
This Father’s Day we honor all the fathers who dared to hope that their children’s future could be better than theirs, and worked and sacrificed to make it so, who stayed, who loved, who were present in their children’s lives, who built the stable and secure foundation upon which their children could build a life of strength and meaning.
You give that same gift to children here on the Thai/Burma border by helping equip fathers with the wisdom and courage they need to hope for and build for a better future for their children, with the relationship skills they need to strengthen their marriages and have peaceful homes, with vocational skills and savings structures to be able to earn enough to feed their families and save for their future. You help fathers here protect their children and raise them up to be the heroes they were born to be.