The Wednesday Rant

April 12, 2017 | Posted in:General

 

It’s been an interesting week.

So much on my mind, but I am sparing you the “rant” titled “WWJB” that had The Lord being dropped off in the Easter aisle at Wal-Mart and having a conversation with the Easter Bunny about how the impending day of Resurrection ties in with marshmallow “Peeps” and the huge sale on baskets full of diabetes inducing goodies.

“WWJB” translates to “What Would Jesus Buy?”

But I digress…and discernment is often a great, but not easy choice.

So…maybe we can work Jesus in here somewhere, just not battling with a rabbit.

Yesterday I was on the stage with Tom Dreesen, but the interesting thing is that while Dreesen is famous comedian with over 500 appearances on “The Tonight Show” and hung out with “The Chairman of The Board” Francis Albert Sinatra, he wasn’t at all funny yesterday.

He was very serious and so was I, because what we talking about to the gathered Chicago Rotary Club humans is not a laughing matter.

We were talking about dads…actually the absence of them.

A staggering 40 million kids grow up in the USA without a father in the home and that “hole” creates all sorts of ripple effects from drug use, to alcoholism to gang banging to eventual incarceration. We talked about a different time, not that long ago when we had a healthy fear of our dads, that looming figure we had to answer to when we messed up. I shared a story about the time I tried to shoplift a pair of $7 sunglasses and got nabbed, right across the street from the bank my dad worked at. He walked over to the security office, and the look on his face of disappointment was enough to make me leave a life of crime for good.

I was twelve years old.

Later that evening when he got home he talked about honesty and honor and how important those things were…and that I would have plenty of time to think about my actions for the next two weeks while I was grounded except for school.

Dreesen talked about growing up in Harvey, Illinois, back when they preferred the cops instead of having to deal with someone’s dad. That none of the parents in the community would have ever put up with one of them going off the rails even a little, and how in just a couple of generations so much has changed…and not for the better in many ways.

Both of us were invited by David Hirsch, who is the founder of The Illinois Fatherhood Imitative and the guy who for twenty years has been raising the bar for fathers, urging us to not just “be there” for our kids, but for all kids.

I collaborated on the book ” 21st Century Dad’s” and also penned the forward to the volume that came out last Father’s Day and is filled with David’s adventures as he rode a bike from Santa Monica to Chicago, that’s over 2,300 miles…in just 21 days in 2015. Last year in 2016, he rode from Boston to Chicago in 21 days and this year David and a slew of riders will mount up for a 1,000-mile ride around Lake Michigan.

All of his efforts come from the fact that David grew up without his father, and was fearful about imposing the same future on his own children.

As with so many things in life, we are either breaking chains of the past or forging new links in the present that will have to be dealt with by our children.

Over the years, I have done the “Big Brother” program and mentored kids at the high school I attended and later taught at, sought to use every opportunity to connect with young people in search of themselves and a direction in life, many of them growing up without that “rudder” called dad, or a father that had more interest in a bottle than in their kids’ lives.

While the headlines seem to be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the loss of young life at the hands of another “not even old enough to vote” kid, I am heartened by the fact that there are so many lives that are saved because someone stepped up and smack dab in the middle of this event yesterday, a name floated into my head.

Derek Brown…

Derek runs a boxing program out of his garage in North Lawndale, and was profiled by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune last September.

Brown was a gang member at twelve…the same age I was stealing sunglasses…and the same age as the two boys that were shot in a drive by in Old Town two days ago.

Brown eventually became a drug dealer with the nickname of “Shotgun” and did time in prison.

Mary shared in her column… “ Took me 30 years to realize Shotgun was just misguided.” The story continued. “He is 40 now. His boxing program, called Boxing Out Negativity, is his restitution for the kids who followed in his misguided footsteps, who wound up dead or, like his brother, in prison. ‘I helped destroy my little brother,’ he said.”

It was one of the most powerful pieces I have ever read about what is possible when a life is transformed, and the ripple effect for the better begins.

I have spoken in well over two dozen prisons in the past couple of decades, and ran into hundreds of Derek Brown’s but only a few who came out and got out of the drug business and instead was about the business of breaking chains of the past.

I went back and read Mary’s column again just now…I needed something to offset the erosion that takes place every time I hear about another shooting in Chicago, the inevitable prayer vigil and words of “never again.”

As Tom and I were about to close the event, I remembered the words of our mutual friend, the late, great John Powers who shared with me what his grandfather had said to him as a young man, and a message so needed today.

And I passed those words on to our audience and now to you.

” You are truly never an adult until you consider all of the children of the world…yours.”

You know…kinda like Jesus.

Or Derek Brown…or David Hirsch…or John Powers…or Tom Dreesen.

One person can make a world of difference.

Just have to decide that it’s you.

Be The Change…”peeps.”

Huh…worked that in after all.

JSA

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