The world we live in is hard enough to navigate in an ideal environment with a safe neighborhood, good schools, and loving parents, but when you start removing instrumental pieces from a child’s life, the chances of failure rises significantly. Unfortunately, life isn’t ideal, and it definitely isn’t fair, and the causes can be debated to the moon and back. But I don’t want to focus on why our culture is the way it is, although I would say it’s primarily because we have distanced ourselves from Christ, instead I want to highlight men like Steven Moore.
Steven Moore is my mom’s brother, therefore my uncle. I’m not quite sure what the role of uncle is supposed to be, but whatever it is, my uncle surpassed it. Being from Oakland CA, a city considered to be tough and dangerous, provided ample opportunities for me to get into trouble and walk down the wrong path, especially being raised by a single mother. This doesn’t mean my mother didn’t provide for me and give me everything I needed, but being able to co-parent with my wife has made me realize the importance of having two parents in the household. But looking back, was I really raised by a single mother? Technically yes, but when I talk with friends or hear other people’s testimonies about growing up with a single mother, I feel as if I can’t relate in a lot of ways. We shared a similar environment, but with the additional support of my uncle, those things had less of a negative impact on my life. Uncle Steve was present, engaging and able to fill the financial, psychological and emotional void most people struggle with when they live without a consistent father figure in their life.
When I was growing up, Uncle Steve had his own family, responsibilities and concerns. He was married to my auntie Donna, raising three beautiful girls, had a job, coached football and was a type 2 diabetic. But somewhere in the midst of his busy schedule, whether it was coaching my little league baseball teams, taking me on their family trips or just hanging out at their house, Uncle Steve made the effort to spend time with me. In fact, some of my best childhood memories are at his house, especially when we would wrestle or play video games. However, Uncle Steve wasn’t just the cool uncle; he established a high standard of excellence for who I should be as a man. Being accountable, honest, and hardworking are a few of the lessons he taught me. I used to think Uncle Steve was just getting a discounted rate when I would have to cut the grass, resod his lawn or tear down a garage in order to earn money for sports equipment or pocket change. He could have easily given me the money or the equipment, but other than satisfying my immediate need, there wouldn’t have been any long term impact. But to my benefit, these jobs taught me the value of a dollar, work ethic and that no one would ever give me anything.
But the best gift I ever received from Uncle Steve was an untainted image of who my dad was. I was aware my father wasn’t fulfilling his responsibilities, but my uncle was able to stand in the gap for my father and provide a clear picture of what a “real” father should look like without diminishing my dad’s role in my life. This allowed me to grow up emotionally healthy and not feel any anger or bitterness towards my dad. And now as an adult, I’ve had the opportunity to have a great relationship with my father.
I would encourage men to make the same sacrifice my uncle did and make time for the fatherless. I understand the demands of life, but we’ve all been called to be Gap Fillers (Psalm 68:5). I’m not saying you have to do it exactly like my uncle and dedicate a significant amount of your time and resources, but there is a great need in our world for men to step up and positively impact children’s lives. If you’re able to, coaching, mentoring and adoption are great, but even taking a child to lunch, watching a movie or playing catch are effective. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how we do it as long as we do it. But we can no longer stand on the sideline and complain about how bad things are in our communities.
And to the young people, especially the boys and young men, there are Uncle Steves everywhere. However, if you’re focusing on having the ideal situation, you may miss out on blessings from someone looking to stand in the gap for your dad (Deuteronomy 10:18 ESV). If you have someone eager to pour wisdom and love into your life, let them. It may not be ideal, but his guidance will be instrumental as you figure out how to be a successful man of high character.