fathers, or the lack of

I spent yesterday evening at a volunteers meeting at the WAO’s (Women’s Aid Organization) child care center*. This is the first time I’ve attended since serving for five years and I left with a weight upon my heart. We crammed ourselves in the library, sitting in a semi-circle (we would’ve made a full circle if we had more volunteers), starring at each other. Awkward smiles followed brief introductions and soon we were off into the somewhat loose agenda.

It was an estrogen filled semi-circle with only one male. A male with long hair. We shared our thoughts and it goes without saying that the center is in dire need for male volunteers.

We have male volunteers on and off. They come and go, but hardly ever stay—much like the fathers in the children’s life. Malaysian men aren’t always known for their knack in showing affection. Some don’t even know what to do with themselves in the presence of a 6-yearold. Yet in my idealized worldview, I believe that every man is capable of showing affection, kindness and altruism if they can see where their strength and courage is needed.

A day before Father’s Day and we’re here discussing about the fatherless. One 9-yearold boy used to watch pornography with his father. We found this out the hard way when he was caught touching his sister who lives in the same shelter. My heart raced with anger and I found myself with a clenched lock jaw. Racism is also brewing in the home as we have seen some of the kids ganged up on the Burmese siblings. They spoke about being dark-skinned and fair-skinned and things I won’t write here. The girls don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. No matter what the mothers, staff or the female volunteers tell them about their beauty and self-worth, it means so much more to them when it comes from their fathers. And I know that full well.

So why am I writing all this? I’m not sure. Perhaps you can blame it on the two double espressos and caffè latte I had today. But I look forward to the day these kids will no longer find it ironic to celebrate Father’s Day.

If you’re still reading this, thank you. If you follow Christ, I humbly ask you to consider what Jesus meant when He said He only does what He sees His Father doing (John 5:19). But please read on. It’s lengthy but it explains the situation so much better than I can:

I learned a great deal about myself while watching a documentary a few years ago about elephants in a wildlife trust in Africa. There were twenty-five elephants, all of them orphans, and they had been brought to the trust twenty years before. They were becoming teenagers– in elephant years. The girls were adequate, getting along with the other elephants, but there were a few boys who were causing a great deal of trouble. The narrator talked about the frustrations these few elephants were feeling because they had gone into early musth cycles, which showed up as a green pus running down their right hind leg. This phase produced aggressive and violent behavior, the elephant equivalent of sexual frustration.

The narrator in the documentary said the elephant musth cycle beings in adolescence, and normally lasts only a few days. But among these orphans, the musth cycle was disrupted and had become unusually long. These elephants were taking out their aggression on rhinos that bathed at a local mud pool. An elephant would slowly lumber down to the pool, enter near a rhino, then spear it through the side with his tusks. The elephant would then lean his gargantuan forehead into the head of the rhino, holding the beast underwater until it drowned. The filmmakers followed these orphan elephants who were always on their own, staggering about the wildlife refuge, fueled by a pent-up aggression they couldn’t understand. They weren’t acting like elephants—they didn’t know what an elephant was supposed to do with all his energy, all his muscle.

Occasionally, two elephants in musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl. When both beasts, bloodied, lumbered their separate ways alone– without a family, without a tribe—I couldn’t help but identify. I have never killed a rhino, or much of anything for that matter, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to be. I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about. I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. Life was a confusing series of emotions rubbing against events. I wasn’t sure how to manage myself, how to talk to a woman, how to build a career, how to—well, be a man.

To me, life was something you had to stumble through alone. It wasn’t something you enjoyed or conquered, it was something that happened to you, and you didn’t have a whole lot of say about the way it turned out. You just acted out your feelings and hoped you never got caught.

Watching television that night, however, the narrator began to speak of a kind of hope for these elephants. Elephant development, apparently, begins very early. Female elephants are only capable of having children once every two years, and during those two years between babies, the young are cared for obsessively by their mothers. They are fed, sheltered, loved, and guided in their learning of basic survival.

It is only at the first musth cycle that a young male elephant leaves his mother and enters into the African wild, searching for a mentor, a guide. The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance. Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends. The older and younger begin to travel together, to find food together, to protect each other—the older one teaching the younger what elephant strength is for, and how to use it for the benefit of himself and the tribe.

Watching television that night, I wondered if humans aren’t like that, too. I began to wonder if we guys were designed to have a father, whose very presence would cause us to understand more accurately what our muscle is for, what we are supposed to do with our energy.

You have to wonder, don’t you? Some statistics state as many as 85 percent of the guys in prison grew up without a dad. This is sobering to me.

And so watching the documentary, I began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us. I wondered if there isn’t a better paradigm for our existence—a way of being men, a way each of us could truly embrace if it were instilled in us by a man who spoke with altruism and authority. I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong, and the world needs them. And I wondered this: Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage, and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey? I wondered if some of the confusing emotions I was feeling weren’t a kind of suspended adolescence from which the presence of an older man might have delivered me.

— An excerpt from To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller.

* These children are here not because they are orphans, but because their mothers were abused by their fathers. So as the mothers seek refuge and a life apart from the violence, this is where the kids will stay for two years until she can stand on her own again. Sometimes she makes it, sometimes she returns to the abuse and the cycle continues. If you live in the Klang Valley and would like to help, let me know.

It was an estrogen filled semi-circle with only one male. A male with long hair. We shared our thoughts and it goes without saying that the center is in dire need for male volunteers.
We have male volunteers on and off. They come and go, but hardly ever stay—much like the fathers in the children’s life. Malaysian men aren’t always known for their knack in showing affection. Some don’t even know what to do with themselves in the presence of a 6-yearold. Yet in my idealized worldview, I believe that every man is capable of showing affection, kindness and altruism if they can see where their strength and courage is needed.
A day before Father’s Day and we’re here discussing about the fatherless. One 9-yearold boy used to watch pornography with his father. We found this out the hard way when he was caught touching his sister who lives in the same shelter. My heart raced with anger and I found myself with a clenched lock jaw. Racism is also brewing in the home as we have seen some of the kids ganged up on the Burmese siblings. They spoke about being dark-skinned and fair-skinned and things I won’t write here. The girls don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. No matter what the mothers, staff or the female volunteers tell them about their beauty and self-worth, it means so much more to them when it comes from their fathers. And I know that full well.
So why am I writing all this? I’m not sure. Perhaps you can blame it on the two double espressos and caffè latte I had today. But I look forward to the day these kids will no longer find it ironic to celebrate Father’s Day.
If you’re still reading this, thank you. But please read on. It’s lengthy but it explains the situation so much better than I can:
I learned a great deal about myself while watching a documentary a few years ago about elephants in a wildlife trust in Africa. There were twenty-five elephants, all of them orphans, and they had been brought to the trust twenty years before. They were becoming teenagers– in elephant years. The girls were adequate, getting along with the other elephants, but there were a few boys who were causing a great deal of trouble. The narrator talked about the frustrations these few elephants were feeling because they had gone into early musth cycles, which showed up as a green pus running down their right hind leg. This phase produced aggressive and violent behavior, the elephant equivalent of sexual frustration.
The narrator in the documentary said the elephant musth cycle beings in adolescence, and normally lasts only a few days. But among these orphans, the musth cycle was disrupted and had become unusually long. These elephants were taking out their aggression on rhinos that bathed at a local mud pool. An elephant would slowly lumber down to the pool, enter near a rhino, then spear it through the side with his tusks. The elephant would then lean his gargantuan forehead into the head of the rhino, holding the beast underwater until it drowned. The filmmakers followed these orphan elephants who were always on their own, staggering about the wildlife refuge, fueled by a pent-up aggression they couldn’t understand. They weren’t acting like elephants– they didn’t know what an elephant was supposed to do with all his energy, all his muscle.
Occasionally, two elephants in musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl. When both beasts, bloodied, lumbered their separate ways alone– without a family, without a tribe– I couldn’t help but identify. I have never killed a rhino, or much of anything for that matter, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to be. I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about. I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. Life was a confusing series of emotions rubbing against events. I wasn’t sure how to manage myself, how to talk to a woman, how to build a career, how to– well, be a man.
To me, life was something you had to stumble through alone. It wasn’t something you enjoyed or conquered, it was something that happened to you, and you didn’t have a whole lot of say about the way it turned out. You just acted out your feelings and hoped you never got caught.
Watching television that night, however, the narrator began to speak of a kind of hope for these elephants. Elephant development, apparently, begins very early. Female elephants are only capable of having children once every two years, and during those two years between babies, the young are cared for obsessively by their mothers. They are fed, sheltered, loved, and guided in their learning of basic survival.
It is only at the first musth cycle that a young male elephant leaves his mother and enters into the African wild, searching for a mentor, a guide. The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance. Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends. The older and younger begin to travel together, to find food together, to protect each other—the older one teaching the younger what elephant strength is for, and how to use it for the benefit of himself and the tribe.
Watching television that night, I wondered if humans aren’t like that, too. I began to wonder if we guys were designed to have a father, whose very presence would cause us to understand more accurately what our muscle is for, what we are supposed to do with our energy.
You have to wonder, don’t you? Some statistics state as many as 85 percent of the guys in prison grew up without a dad. This is sobering to me.
And so watching the documentary, I began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us. I wondered if there isn’t a better paradigm for our existence—a way of being men, a way each of us could truly embrace if it were instilled in us by a man who spoke with altruism and authority. I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong, and the world needs them. And I wondered this: Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage, and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey? I wondered if some of the confusing emotions I was feeling weren’t a kind of suspended adolescence from which the presence of an older man might have delivered me.
— An excerpt from To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller.
* These children are here not because they are orphans, but because their mothers were abused by their fathers. So as the mothers seek refuge and a life apart from the violence, this is where the kids will stay for two years until she can stand on her own again. Sometimes she makes it, sometimes she returns to the abuse and the cycle continues. If you live in the Klang Valley and would like to help, let me know.
I spent yesterday evening at a volunteers meeting at the WAO’s (Women’s Aid Organization) child care center*. This is the first time I’ve attended since serving for five years and I left with a weight upon my heart. We crammed ourselves in the library, sitting in a semi-circle (we would’ve made a full circle if we had more volunteers), starring at each other. Awkward smiles, brief introductions and soon we were off into the somewhat loose agenda.
It was an estrogen filled semi-circle with only one male. A male with long hair. We shared our thoughts and it goes without saying that the center is in dire need for male volunteers.
We have male volunteers on and off. They come and go, but hardly ever stay—much like the fathers in the children’s life. Malaysian men aren’t always known for their knack in showing affection. Some don’t even know what to do with themselves in the presence of a 6-yearold. Yet in my idealized worldview, I believe that every man is capable of showing affection, kindness and altruism if they can see where their strength and courage is needed.
A day before Father’s Day and we’re here discussing about the fatherless. One 9-yearold boy used to watch pornography with his father. We found this out the hard way when he was caught touching his sister who lives in the same shelter. My heart raced with anger and I found myself with a clenched lock jaw. Racism is also brewing in the home as we have seen some of the kids ganged up on the Burmese siblings. They spoke about being dark-skinned and fair-skinned and things I won’t write here. The girls don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. No matter what the mothers, staff or the female volunteers tell them about their beauty and self-worth, it means so much more to them when it comes from their fathers. And I know that full well.
So why am I writing all this? I’m not sure. Perhaps you can blame it on the two double espressos and caffè latte I had today. But I look forward to the day these kids will no longer find it ironic to celebrate Father’s Day.
If you’re still reading this, thank you. But please read on. It’s lengthy but it explains the situation so much better than I can:
I learned a great deal about myself while watching a documentary a few years ago about elephants in a wildlife trust in Africa. There were twenty-five elephants, all of them orphans, and they had been brought to the trust twenty years before. They were becoming teenagers– in elephant years. The girls were adequate, getting along with the other elephants, but there were a few boys who were causing a great deal of trouble. The narrator talked about the frustrations these few elephants were feeling because they had gone into early musth cycles, which showed up as a green pus running down their right hind leg. This phase produced aggressive and violent behavior, the elephant equivalent of sexual frustration.
The narrator in the documentary said the elephant musth cycle beings in adolescence, and normally lasts only a few days. But among these orphans, the musth cycle was disrupted and had become unusually long. These elephants were taking out their aggression on rhinos that bathed at a local mud pool. An elephant would slowly lumber down to the pool, enter near a rhino, then spear it through the side with his tusks. The elephant would then lean his gargantuan forehead into the head of the rhino, holding the beast underwater until it drowned. The filmmakers followed these orphan elephants who were always on their own, staggering about the wildlife refuge, fueled by a pent-up aggression they couldn’t understand. They weren’t acting like elephants– they didn’t know what an elephant was supposed to do with all his energy, all his muscle.
Occasionally, two elephants in musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl. When both beasts, bloodied, lumbered their separate ways alone– without a family, without a tribe– I couldn’t help but identify. I have never killed a rhino, or much of anything for that matter, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to be. I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about. I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. Life was a confusing series of emotions rubbing against events. I wasn’t sure how to manage myself, how to talk to a woman, how to build a career, how to– well, be a man.
To me, life was something you had to stumble through alone. It wasn’t something you enjoyed or conquered, it was something that happened to you, and you didn’t have a whole lot of say about the way it turned out. You just acted out your feelings and hoped you never got caught.
Watching television that night, however, the narrator began to speak of a kind of hope for these elephants. Elephant development, apparently, begins very early. Female elephants are only capable of having children once every two years, and during those two years between babies, the young are cared for obsessively by their mothers. They are fed, sheltered, loved, and guided in their learning of basic survival.
It is only at the first musth cycle that a young male elephant leaves his mother and enters into the African wild, searching for a mentor, a guide. The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance. Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends. The older and younger begin to travel together, to find food together, to protect each other—the older one teaching the younger what elephant strength is for, and how to use it for the benefit of himself and the tribe.
Watching television that night, I wondered if humans aren’t like that, too. I began to wonder if we guys were designed to have a father, whose very presence would cause us to understand more accurately what our muscle is for, what we are supposed to do with our energy.
You have to wonder, don’t you? Some statistics state as many as 85 percent of the guys in prison grew up without a dad. This is sobering to me.
And so watching the documentary, I began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us. I wondered if there isn’t a better paradigm for our existence—a way of being men, a way each of us could truly embrace if it were instilled in us by a man who spoke with altruism and authority. I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong, and the world needs them. And I wondered this: Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage, and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey? I wondered if some of the confusing emotions I was feeling weren’t a kind of suspended adolescence from which the presence of an older man might have delivered me.
— An excerpt from To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller.
* These children are here not because they are orphans, but because their mothers were abused by their fathers. So as the mothers seek refuge and a life apart from the violence, this is where the kids will stay for two years until she can stand on her own again. Sometimes she makes it, sometimes she returns to the abuse and the cycle continues. If you live in the Klang Valley and would like to help, let me know.

I spent yesterday evening at a volunteers meeting at the WAO’s (Women’s Aid Organization) child care center*. This is the first time I’ve attended since serving for five years and I left with a weight upon my heart. We crammed ourselves in the library, sitting in a semi-circle (we would’ve made a full circle if we had more volunteers), starring at each other. Awkward smiles, brief introductions and soon we were off into the somewhat loose agenda.
It was an estrogen filled semi-circle with only one male. A male with long hair. We shared our thoughts and it goes without saying that the center is in dire need for male volunteers.
We have male volunteers on and off. They come and go, but hardly ever stay—much like the fathers in the children’s life. Malaysian men aren’t always known for their knack in showing affection. Some don’t even know what to do with themselves in the presence of a 6-yearold. Yet in my idealized worldview, I believe that every man is capable of showing affection, kindness and altruism if they can see where their strength and courage is needed.
A day before Father’s Day and we’re here discussing about the fatherless. One 9-yearold boy used to watch pornography with his father. We found this out the hard way when he was caught touching his sister who lives in the same shelter. My heart raced with anger and I found myself with a clenched lock jaw. Racism is also brewing in the home as we have seen some of the kids ganged up on the Burmese siblings. They spoke about being dark-skinned and fair-skinned and things I won’t write here. The girls don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. No matter what the mothers, staff or the female volunteers tell them about their beauty and self-worth, it means so much more to them when it comes from their fathers. And I know that full well.
So why am I writing all this? I’m not sure. Perhaps you can blame it on the two double espressos and caffè latte I had today. But I look forward to the day these kids will no longer find it ironic to celebrate Father’s Day.
If you’re still reading this, thank you. But please read on. It’s lengthy but it explains the situation so much better than I can:
I learned a great deal about myself while watching a documentary a few years ago about elephants in a wildlife trust in Africa. There were twenty-five elephants, all of them orphans, and they had been brought to the trust twenty years before. They were becoming teenagers– in elephant years. The girls were adequate, getting along with the other elephants, but there were a few boys who were causing a great deal of trouble. The narrator talked about the frustrations these few elephants were feeling because they had gone into early musth cycles, which showed up as a green pus running down their right hind leg. This phase produced aggressive and violent behavior, the elephant equivalent of sexual frustration.
The narrator in the documentary said the elephant musth cycle beings in adolescence, and normally lasts only a few days. But among these orphans, the musth cycle was disrupted and had become unusually long. These elephants were taking out their aggression on rhinos that bathed at a local mud pool. An elephant would slowly lumber down to the pool, enter near a rhino, then spear it through the side with his tusks. The elephant would then lean his gargantuan forehead into the head of the rhino, holding the beast underwater until it drowned. The filmmakers followed these orphan elephants who were always on their own, staggering about the wildlife refuge, fueled by a pent-up aggression they couldn’t understand. They weren’t acting like elephants– they didn’t know what an elephant was supposed to do with all his energy, all his muscle.
Occasionally, two elephants in musth would meet, and the encounter was always violent, going so far as to uproot trees in the fray of their brawl. When both beasts, bloodied, lumbered their separate ways alone– without a family, without a tribe– I couldn’t help but identify. I have never killed a rhino, or much of anything for that matter, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t know exactly how to be. I mean, there were feelings, sometimes anger, sometimes depression, sometimes raging lust, and I was never sure what any of it was about. I just felt like killing somebody, or sleeping with some girl, or decking a guy in a bar, and I didn’t know what to do with any of these feelings. Life was a confusing series of emotions rubbing against events. I wasn’t sure how to manage myself, how to talk to a woman, how to build a career, how to– well, be a man.
To me, life was something you had to stumble through alone. It wasn’t something you enjoyed or conquered, it was something that happened to you, and you didn’t have a whole lot of say about the way it turned out. You just acted out your feelings and hoped you never got caught.
Watching television that night, however, the narrator began to speak of a kind of hope for these elephants. Elephant development, apparently, begins very early. Female elephants are only capable of having children once every two years, and during those two years between babies, the young are cared for obsessively by their mothers. They are fed, sheltered, loved, and guided in their learning of basic survival.
It is only at the first musth cycle that a young male elephant leaves his mother and enters into the African wild, searching for a mentor, a guide. The green pus running down his hind leg and his smell like fresh-cut grass alerts an older, fully mature male, that this is a young elephant in need of guidance. Upon finding a mentor, the young elephant’s musth cycle ends. The older and younger begin to travel together, to find food together, to protect each other—the older one teaching the younger what elephant strength is for, and how to use it for the benefit of himself and the tribe.
Watching television that night, I wondered if humans aren’t like that, too. I began to wonder if we guys were designed to have a father, whose very presence would cause us to understand more accurately what our muscle is for, what we are supposed to do with our energy.
You have to wonder, don’t you? Some statistics state as many as 85 percent of the guys in prison grew up without a dad. This is sobering to me.
And so watching the documentary, I began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us. I wondered if there isn’t a better paradigm for our existence—a way of being men, a way each of us could truly embrace if it were instilled in us by a man who spoke with altruism and authority. I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong, and the world needs them. And I wondered this: Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage, and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey? I wondered if some of the confusing emotions I was feeling weren’t a kind of suspended adolescence from which the presence of an older man might have delivered me.
— An excerpt from To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller.

* These children are here not because they are orphans, but because their mothers were abused by their fathers. So as the mothers seek refuge and a life apart from the violence, this is where the kids will stay for two years until she can stand on her own again. Sometimes she makes it, sometimes she returns to the abuse and the cycle continues. If you live in the Klang Valley and would like to help, let me know.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for telling it as it is. It wasn’t a very pleasant meeting (or the revelations that came with it) what more can we do? what more have we not done but could have?

    maybe we should regroup with the rest and see how we can push further.

    (caffeine guzzler you)

  2. alvink

    It’s sad how the decisions made by parents can affect the child so much more than what they will ever realize. Yet, all we can do is try and hope and pray. :) I’ve got a free hand. Shall spread the word. Click.

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