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  • Doug Tjapkes

Happy Father's Day?

I have received all of my Father’s Day gifts already. I need no more. I have four beautiful adult kids, all healthy and well, who love each other. Each is happily married to a beautiful and devoted spouse. I have nine beautiful grandkids. There is harmony and laughter and love in our family. I am blessed beyond measure. Yet, my observance of Father’s Day is clouded, and it all goes back to this statement by my favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner: Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. The situation is this: I work 7 days a week with residents of the Michigan Prison System. And daily, this is what I see: Fathers whose wives have abandoned them, and who have no idea where their kids are. Fathers whose kids despise them because of their plight, and who refuse to visit them. Fathers who have never seen their kids. Grandfathers who have grandchildren, but have never even met them. Fathers of little kids, trying their best to be good daddies in absentia. Fathers who feel like failures because of their example to kids. And that is just the beginning of the list. On Father’s Day, 2021, a couple of observations. First, for those of us in a free society, we must listen to Frederick Buechner. We must not tire in efforts to prevent young people from getting into prison, to seek better alternatives for many prison sentences, to improve prison conditions, and to make prisons more family-friendly. We can’t be completely happy until these dads behind bars feel some happiness. Second, join me in a prayer for fathers and grandfathers behind bars today. They crave the same benefits of parenthood that you and I enjoy. I send them these words of assurance from a favorite gospel song written by Lynda Randle: For the God on the mountain Is still God in the valley When things go wrong He'll make them right And the God of the good times Is still God in the bad times The God of the day Is still God in the night. May ALL dads and granddads claim those words today. Moms and grandmothers, too.

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