Almost half of the children in the United States don’t know what a father even is, Jose Aviles is looking to change that from the inside out.
43% of US children live without their father, 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes, 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.
I got these statistics from thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com and they are pretty disturbing but ring true and factual indeed. You see, I am the Dean of Students at a Newark High School in New Jersey and I created a peer mentorship program there. I am trying to effect change in the best way that I can.
I do this through training upper classmen, juniors and seniors to mentor underclassmen, freshmen and sophomores. Through our training we come up with some difficult topics that need to be covered. I have 25 young men who are peer mentors and I meet with them at least once a week throughout the school year.
The topic of this week’s lesson was a Fatherless Nation. I simply asked them to raise their hand if they answered yes to this question. The question was “ How many of you grew up without a father in your life” 17 of the 25 raised their hands. That would make it 68%. That meant that 68% of my peer mentors grew up with out their father. That was pretty eye opening.
I showed them a Youtube video entitled “ The Father Effect” created by John Finch. It was an amazing piece and it discussed the power of forgiveness and how it can be used to overcome the wound your father has caused in order to live a productive and happy life.
Once the twenty-five minute video was over one of my peer mentors stormed out and about five others were in tears. After I retrieved the one mentor that ran out I asked them to share. They were very reluctant, so I decided to share the story of my father.
Though he never left, my relationship with him was very strained. He was verbally and physically abusive towards my brother and I growing up. I suffered from my father being fatherless. His father left him when he was a child and he had no clue how to raise two sons. Coupled with being abused himself growing up and fighting in the Vietnam War he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which in other words made him a nightmare to live with.
Despite the pain I was able to forgive my father years later, understanding my father did not know better and he was just as much a victim of circumstance. I went to college and became relatively successful as a teacher and administrator. My brother on the other hand chose not to forgive him. He succumbed to substance abuse dropped out of school and eventually ended up in jail. Till this day he blames my father for his poor choices.
Once I shared my story hands immediately went up, they wanted to share theirs. Their stories were powerful. Many of them sharing their pain for the first time, stories of abandonment, abuse and neglect they all seemed to have one common denominator and it was resentment.
On a positive note many of them were able to find positive male role models to help fill some of the void, such as stepfathers, uncles, cousins and older friends of the family. Most of them have developed a hatred for their father going as far as to say they would curse them out and even fight them, most simply refuse to talk or have any contact with them but none have explored forgiveness as a viable option.
At the end of the day it boils down to choice. You can choose to hate or choose to forgive. Ultimately it is not about their fathers’ well being but about theirs. Their Success is entirely theirs to own. No one can take credit for their success, but we must understand that their failure is theirs to own as well. They were struck by our discussion and some even chose to reach out to their fathers.
At the end of the day being the father that your father never was is one way to show the world that this is a Nation of Fathers to be.