Somewhere around my mid-twenties, I started thinking about volunteering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS). I am not sure why I didn’t do it then, perhaps I was afraid, perhaps it was because we were still fairly nomadic or perhaps it was because I knew I wasn’t ready yet. No matter the reason, by the time I hit my mid-thirties, I wanted to do it. I went through the lengthy process to become a “Big” and the good folks at Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Los Angeles matched me up with A.J. and we’ve been friends ever since. The two years we had together were one of the best things I’ve ever done and even though I moved away, we’re still in touch and I will always be a friend to him.
As great as I think BBBS is, I found it limiting in some ways and also, there wasn’t great support. I had some really great Match Support Specialists in our two years, but I had a couple crappy ones as well, fortunately A.J. and I connected and his mom was awesome in that she was supportive, helped when I needed it but otherwise left us to our own devices. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to mentor another kid because I still wanted to be in A.J.’s life, even if one thousand miles away.
All that having been said, I will never stop believing that fathers are important and I will never stop fighting against this cultural attack on men and fatherhood. As a society, we are focused on raising strong girls, which I not only support but am doing every single day (even if our more traditional values are at odds with society’s), but boys are getting left behind by being told they aren’t important, or that they’re “toxic” and that they don’t need a dad nor do they need to be one. So, several months ago, I signed up with a wonderful program administered through our church called, Fathers in the Field.
Fathers in the Field is a faith-based mentoring program for fatherless boys and is much more intense than BBBS. This is intentional. BBBS required two contacts a month for a few hours at a time. Fathers in the Field requires weekly contacts and requires two of those contacts be trips to church and one being a service project, preferably for an elderly woman (it has to be helping people, it can’t be highway cleanup). Unlike BBBS, these boys are not allowed in the program if they have a man in their life, meaning if their mom has a live-in boyfriend, they’re not allowed in the program. While not all of these men are going to mentor the boy, the idea is that they should and the program doesn’t want to stand in the way of that.
I’ve written about nature as a healer and I’ve written about the fact that while the outdoors is not a “male” space, it can be a great avenue for male bonding nonetheless. There’s a lot of real-life knowledge that be gained from the outdoors, for both boys and girls, but the outdoors also provides opportunities for certain life lessons that boys need to receive from other men. Fatherless boys are also in need of healing and sometimes being able to get away from other people and all the trappings of civilization allows those things to be brought to the surface so that they can let God into their hearts to heal them.
This morning, after church, I’m going to meet my Field Buddy. While this is a meet and greet and both he and I (and his mom) have the right to veto the pairing at this point, this is usually nothing more than a formality. All I know is his name is Robert and he is 14. I’m nervous, I don’t know anything about what this kid has been through, but I’m excited because I’m looking forward to being able to take this kid to the gun range, on hikes, fishing, small game hunting and eventually, big game hunting. I also know, for all my faults, I have a lot to give to a kid who doesn’t have anyone else to receive it from.
Wish me luck, and if you’re so inclined, say a prayer for us.
Fathers in the Field is a nationwide program, if you’re interested in getting involved, please contact your church and/or the national Fathers in the Field office at www.fathersinthefield.com