Though deadbeat dads and high-school dropouts might pervade some communities, there are still far more models than mess-ups across our country, and some stand head and shoulders above the rest. Let me tell you about a few stellar examples.
I understand that one in four U.S. students not receiving a regular high-school diploma may still not be good enough, with that number dropping to one in two students in places like New York City or among groups like Native Americans.
And I understand that, as First Things First reported, in places like in Richmond, Va., 60 percent of all families are single-parent households, with the number increasing to 86 percent for African-American families.
First Things First Executive Director Truin Huntle explained, “We have a major father absenteeism issue in Richmond. I wish more people were discussing why this is such a major issue. We see more people beginning to give some credence to it because they are looking for the root cause of other issues like childhood poverty and poor performance in school. Father absenteeism, broken homes, broken marriages and teen pregnancy are continually being found as the root cause of those problems.”
Despite the negative news about grads and dads, there are still many all-star examples in every community – some who face the most adverse conditions and rise up to meet a new day.
According to the Oregonian newspaper, before Aisha Mwinja, 46, died from lung cancer in March, she begged her six children, ages 9-19, to stay in school and go to college.
This was not the first time the six children faced tragedy. Before coming to the U.S., they witnessed the evils of war in their homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa, including the murder of their father in their own home.
After their mother’s death, the children avoided being separated in the U.S. foster care system because their 23-year-old step-brother, Shiabani Omari, moved in with them and became their legal guardian. In addition, the communities of northern Oregon rallied big time in support of the six children, while the eldest brother, Hussein, 19, and sister, Amida, 18, assumed the primary caregiving roles for their younger siblings as they finished their last year of school.
Last week, Hussein and Amida graduated from high school – the latter with honors. Both will work over the summer to help support their family before leaving in the fall to college: Hussein will attend either Concordia University or the University of Oregon, and Amida will go to Portland State University on scholarships.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, on June 8, Mike Patterson, a 43-year-old father and upstanding citizen of Rockmart, Ga., was spending some father-son time with his 9 year old at a nearby stream when he witnessed a little 4-year-old girl being pulled underwater by the strong currents and drowning.
Without hesitation, Mike dove into the water to save her. Unfortunately, the water was shallower than it looked, and Mike broke his neck in three places and severed his spine. He was instantly paralyzed from the neck down and has been hospitalized ever since.
According to Fox News in Atlanta, Mike just started a new job as a contractor two weeks ago and has no medical insurance. The family’s financial situation is additionally burdened by the fact that Mike’s dad has late-stage cancer and his grandfather is bedridden. Still, they hope – they pray – eventually to get Mike into the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehabilitation.
Mike’s family started a Facebook page, “Friends of Mike Patterson,” to give updates about his progress as well as raise funds for his medical bills and future rehabilitation. The headline on the Facebook page reads, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”
A few days ago, a post there explained, “Mike is back on the ventilator, in a medically induced coma, and has pneumonia in both lungs. His sweet mom is sitting by his bed, holding his hand and praying for a miracle and that he is in no pain right now. His family asks that we raise him up in prayer.” (Over this past weekend, Mike’s temperature spiked to over 104 degrees as his body fights off infection.)
There’s a photo circulating the Internet of Mike with his white contractor’s helmet on and the words on the front, “In God We Trust.”
Yes, we do, Mike. And, yes, we will.
The outpouring of love and support from the nation has been such that Mike’s mother was nearly brought to tears as she explained to WSB-TV, “I did not realize there was still loving-kindness in the world like there is. I kind of thought the world had grown cold until this happened to my son.”
It should be noted that Mike’s act to save the young girl from drowning wasn’t his first heroic deed. Just two weeks ago, he witnessed a tractor-trailer T-Bone an SUV and he flew out of his car to aid the injured driver.
It’s one thing to be willing to sacrifice one’s self for a loved one, but quite another for a total stranger.
No wonder that the mother of the young girl that was pulled from the river said about Mike, “He’s a God-send.”
Indeed, Mike’s life and exemplary actions reminds me of the words of Jesus, “No greater love is there than a man who is willing to lay down his life for another.”
(It’s not easy to wrestle through issues of suffering and understand why bad things happen to good people. But if you want to read an excellent book with a lot of heart on the subject, then I recommend “If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil” by my good friend, Randy Alcorn. It is available for discount at Epm.org.)
Deadbeat dads and high-school dropouts?
Sure, America has plenty of them.
But then there those like Hussein, Amida and Mike. And what about all the amazing grads and dads in your community, too? Maybe there’s one even living in your home.
In the new Superman blockbuster, “Man of Steel,” the character Jor-El, Superman’s biological father, asked, “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater? … Every person can be a force for good, free to forge his own destiny.”