Published Sunday, February 24, 2013

Running out of time

There is an uneven sound throughout our casa this week.

It’s like listening to some rock band and you know something is missing. And it finally hits you - there’s no guitarist.

What’s missing around here is the Eldest SON of Thunder. And I realized this week that lack of sound will continue to occur more and more. And I realized I am running out of time.

Eldest is off on a mission trip with his youth group. They are not doing the normal Mexico visit, but are staying closer to home, actually just up the road a bit. Eldest and others are staying at an inner city shelter in Atlanta, working with the homeless.

It was his decision. In fact, the Little Black Dress and I didn’t even know about it; he brought it up. And so we read the flyers about the program, run through the Atlanta Dream Center.

“This program offers adults and teens from across the country an opportunity to experience inner-city ministry first hand. During this urban mission trip, participants will have the chance to feed the homeless, connect with kids and teens, reach out to those trapped in sex slavery, experience community living, and much more. Those who come will not only make a lasting impact on Atlanta’s poverty stricken communities, they themselves will experience life-change as they grow as individuals and a group.”

As I read that, several things popped into my head. That as the greatest and richest country in the world, we have homeless people in one of the biggest cities in America. Yes, I know we have homeless, always will. But why?

It also hit me that Eldest was willing to give up a week of zombie killing to go hang out with kids more familiar with real guns than what they can buy with points earned from completing some waypoint on a video game.

And it hit me that Eldest, despite not yet having a driver’s license, is growing up. And I am running out of time.

He called earlier in the week. The Dress said you could hear the excitement in his voice. Eldest had met a friend.

I never got the friend’s name, but learned quite a bit. He was a tattoo artist, and Eldest went into great detail about the tattoos on his face, which apparently the artist had done himself. Eldest never quite pinpointed why the artist was homeless, something about being robbed and losing everything. And they apparently just hung out and talked. I’m guessing they talked until the artist was overwhelmed. Eldest can out talk The Dress, which is saying something.

And as The Dress was relaying the conversation, I realized Eldest is experiencing a side of life previously foreign to him. His only contact with tattoo artists was when he decided to draw a moustache on one of his younger brothers.

There are few things in the world that really work as advertised. Let me assure you when the marker says “permanent,” trust it. Short of a sandblasting, it took days to get that off.

Eldest is growing up and I’m running out of time. The cliche is moms try to keep their kids from experiencing too much too fast. Dads are pushing for them to experience more and quicker.

This was the first time Eldest has been gone this long. And his first foray into leaving the nest wasn’t the grandparents, or summer camp, but hanging with the homeless and sleeping in a dorm.

I texted a few times and would always get short, one- or two-word responses. Not like him, but he explained he was busy.

I am running out of time. Soon he will be gone for longer stretches, like college. And soon, he will leave the house for good. And I’m not ready. There is so much I think I still need to teach him, to show him, to guide him on. And I worry if he will be ready, if I’ve done my job as a dad.

I am running out of time.

And yet I take great comfort in the fact Eldest decided he’d rather hang with the homeless and do what he can than spend his winter vacation killing zombies or building new worlds on Minecraft.

And so my goal is to continue to use what time I have left to help the SONs find God’s purpose for them, which to me is one of the most important things a dad can teach.


John A. Winters is a staff writer for The Newnan-Times Herald. Follow his adventures at . You can reach him at .

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