Sunday, 23 October 2016

Fatherless children; surrogate dads.

After coming out of a wake, funeral and a cremation ceremony yesterday, I have seen my beloved demise off, but have forgotten about the living. That is, the wife and the two young boys (4 and 8 years old) my brother-in-law had left behind.

What triggered this reminder is an article today by David Brooks entitled "Poverty up close and personal". He introduced an exceptional couple named Ms Kathy Fletcher and Mr David Simpson. They are no politicians running for a hotly watched-after campaign. Neither are they superstars spearheading an organization to eradicate world hunger.

Kathy and David are simple folks who open their house for teenagers to eat with them every Thursday night. That's what they have been doing and the numbers of teenagers coming in are amazing.

In a typical night, they would "have 15 to 20 teenagers crammed around the table, and later, there will be groups of them crashing in the basement or in the few small bedrooms upstairs."

The kids call Kathy and David "Momma" and "Dad" because most of them come from broken homes where their fathers are either serving time or dead, and their mothers are either drug-addicts or had abandoned the family.

David Brooks once brought his daughter there and she noticed that everyone "was unfailingly polite". They "clear the dishes, turn towards one another's love like plant towards the sun and burst with glowing personalities. Birthdays and graduations are celebrated. Songs are performed."

David's daughter concluded: "That's the warmest place I can ever imagine."

"During this election, season of viciousness, vulgarity and depravity, Thursdays at Kathy and David's have been a weekly uplift, and their home a place to be reminded of what is beautiful about our country and what we can do to bring out its loveliness," said David Brooks.

Lesson? Just one.

We as a people, nation and government have been chasing down one rabbit hole after another. We think the big battles are in eliminating terrorism or reducing the debt deficit or protecting national security or maintaining world peace. I feel that these are big sensational agendas with the littlest impact on the lives of our children, our future generation.

David Brooks wrote, "What changes people is relationships. Somebody willing to walk through the shadow of the valley of adolescence with them. Souls are not saved in bundles. Love is the necessary force. The problems facing this country are deeper than the labor participation rate and ISIS. It's a crisis of solidarity, a crisis of segmentation, spiritual degradation and intimacy." Amen.

As my brother-in-law passes on, he has left behind his loved ones - kids without a father. This is the challenge of society. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Let's put aside such grandiose goals like winning an election, competing to be world class and finding a pill for longevity. Gandhi once said that if we each do our part to sweep our corridor, each put in consistent effort to keep our house in order, the world will be cleaned.

At the eulogy yesterday, the other brother-in-law of mine Nat assured my bereaved sister-in-law Cherry that we as a family will be there for her. We will give of our love for her and her two kids, that is, love them in the way kor had loved them, and to the effect be their surrogate fathers. That about sums up what David meant by love being the necessary force. Love never fails.

What we (or children) need most now is not more policies being tabled in conference hall, but more food and family gatherings in the living hall, and not more strategies on how to bridge the gap between nations, but more invitations extended to our neighbors to have a nice warm meal in our homes.

Intimacy makes the enduring difference, not so much international diplomacy. The elegance of simplicity is never in the sensational. It is always in the endearing human touch, personal.

Let me end with this. "Sometimes Kathy and David are asked how they ended up with so many kids flowing through their house. They look at how many kids are out there, and respond: "How is it possible you don't?"

Indeed, how is it possible that we as a family for kor don't? Cheerz.

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