By Kay Etheredge.
He appeared to be maybe nine or ten years old but I surmised he was tall for his age. The few times that he turned around I could see that his eyes were blue…they held the hope and innocence of a boy his age, but there was also something there that indicated he’d seen way too much for the few years he’s been around. He sat sandwiched in between his grandmother and his dad. His dad was a graduate of Brother Bryan Mission’s New Life Fellowship—Phase 2, which means that for the past four months this little boy and his dad have lived in different states.
He clutched a small toy as well as a zip lock bag of candy…he dropped a sucker onto the floor and I retrieved it for him and handed it back. He grinned and thanked me and shyly put it back into the bag. He watched as his daddy got his certificate for finishing the second phase of Brother Bryan Mission’s drug and alcohol recovery program, and he heard his dad say publicly that his son was the biggest blessing in his life. I watched as he kissed his son repeatedly, and the little boy scrunched in closer in his chair to his dad. He traced the letters on the certificate with his finger, and he tried the edges of the golden seal affixed at the bottom as if he wanted to assure himself that it wouldn’t come off—that it was real and stuck to this piece of paper that said in official writing that his daddy was better. I watched as he leaned toward his grandmother on the other side and slid the certificate toward her. His eyebrows raised ever so slightly—an implicit question in his little face. This is good, right? Things will be better? And as he inched back toward his dad on the other side, I noticed what I hadn’t noticed before…they looked exactly alike.
I want to tell this little boy that it will all be ok…that Daddy will come home soon and he will be better and will never use drugs or drink again. That the remaining years of his childhood will be like Leave it to Beaver and when he lays his head on his pillow at night all those terrible fears and what- ifs that creep into his little boy mind will be erased. That it will all just be okay.
But there are startling and fearful statistics that say otherwise. If we believe in “odds” the odds are definitely against his Daddy. And the people who have given their lives to the ministry of Brother Bryan Mission have seen it over and over again, and each and every time is like a kick to the gut and even though they see it repeatedly they are always a little surprised and hurt and pensive about what could have been done differently for this particular man. The program at Brother Bryan Mission is different in that it is built on relationships and the men are treated with grace and dignity and like adults, not children. And it hurts when they walk away, just like it hurts our heavenly Father when we choose our desires over His own.
I don’t know the name of the little boy at the graduation. I will pray for him and for his daddy and for the years he has remaining in the innocence of childhood. I pray that his Daddy will apply those things he is learning and that thoughts of his son will be motivation enough to stay on the right path. And I pray that he will realize what an awesome responsibility he has as a Daddy and a joyful privilege as well. And that when he lays down to sleep at night he’ll think of how easily and readily his little boy scrunched right up against him and how his eyes are watching and hoping that this is all real and permanent like the gold sticker on the certificate. This little blue eyed boy who looks exactly like him.