A few weeks ago I took a walk in a nearby park. I was away from home at a conference and needed to clear my head. The neighborhood park felt inviting, filled with mom’s, strollers, and kids. Adjacent to the playground was a small pond with ducks swimming freely. Four older boys around ten-to-twelve years of age cast their fishing poles, waiting for a bite. I took a trail through the woods on a narrow path. The peacefulness after a hectic morning of serious discussions was refreshing. I sat down at the base of a large tree to think. A small rock hit the top of my head. It didn’t really hurt but it didn’t really feel good either. Ten seconds later another rock bounced from my head and another. I looked around wondering what it could be and heard laughter.
At first I heard just a giggle, and then more, until the laugh was very audible. Up above me in the tree, nestled on the hearty branches was a little boy around 7 or 8. Dark skinned, no shirt, barefooted, and skinny.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
The boy laughed again. “Dropping rocks on your head.”
“Well, I know that,” I answered, “But why?”
He paused for a moment then replied,”I wanted to see if I could hit your head.”
“Oh. Now that you have, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know, but I ain’t coming down,” he said determined.
He tilted his head and paused for a moment as if to size me up. “Cause my mama’s going to skin me alive and feed me to the alligators.”
“I’d probably stay up there too. What’d you do?”
He laughed nervously. “I spray painted my dad’s trophies black.”
I nodded and sat back down on the ground. “I’d stay up there too if I were you. That’s some pretty bad stuff. I was wondering what that lady was going to do with those alligators. Now I know they were for you, ” I teased.
His silence made me smile as I leaned my head against the trunk of the tree and closed my eyes. I probably didn’t count to a hundred before I felt the touch of his hand against my shoulder. His dark brown eyes stared at mine. “I thought you weren’t coming down.”
“I thought I had killed you,” he responded. “I’m Joshua.”
“My name is Mike. Nice to meet you Joshua.”
He sat down beside me and told me all about his dad. How cool he thought he was. His dad played baseball and won many trophies. His dad had a really expensive car and made a lot of money. He wore really nice shoes. Story after story…his dad could run faster, jump higher, catch more fish, climb higher…you name it, his dad had done it and better than anyone anywhere.
The sound of footsteps caused Joshua to jump to his feet and take-off running. “Gotta go Mike. The alligators are going to get me.”
A tall white woman approached me with worried eyes. “Did you see a little boy? Dark skinned?”
“I did. He just took off down the trail.”
“Thank you.” She replied with a sigh, “My husband and I are foster parents. He just came to live with us two days ago.”
“Really? Where is his dad?”
“I don’t think he’s ever known his dad. His mother is in jail. I’m his fifth foster home. Why?”
Psalm 68:4-6, “Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him – His name is the Lord. A Father to the fatherless, a Defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads the prisoners with singing.”
I struggled with emotion as I stood to my feet. How many children live wondering when the alligators are coming? How many children fill their minds with imaginary people to love them when they should have real people to love them?
God has called us to be His hands and feet – a father to the fatherless – a defender of widows. God puts the lonely in families. I thought of my children. I thought of my father. I thought of all the hours my dad had spent tossing that baseball with me. All the hugs and laughter that filled the halls of my home with our three running around.
I reached in my pocket. Someone had just given me tickets, and I hadn’t planned to use them. “You don’t know me. But could I take you, your husband, and Joshua to a baseball game tonight?”
She smiled. “I’ll stay at home but I know my husband and Joshua would love to go.”
To all men out there who strive to be good fathers – thank you. God set the example, we just need to follow His instruction.
I once heard a quote, “If you can wish it for everyone, make it possible for one.”