Entering the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars for Oprah's Lifeclass was like a homecoming on many levels. Stepping onto the circular, disk shaped stage like a newly crowned prom king and queen with overhead screens, lights, and cameras beaming from every angle, the luminous Ms. Winfrey in Kelly green complimenting my creamsicle jacket and coordinating pocket square, was reminiscent of our six or seven prior on-camera connections, but not quite.
This is MegaFest— the world's largest inspirational festival hosting the world's largest classroom— on my home court, my home town of Dallas, Texas. What could be bigger or better than having Oprah Winfrey on my turf? Together, we taped two interactive programs before a vibrantly attired tweet-friendly audience of nearly 21,000 in a continuation of the groundbreaking Lifeclass series on Fatherlessness followed by a show on families in crisis. Fatherlessness is a serious epidemic in America today. Every fatherless child has a hole in his or her soul in the shape of their father.
More than 24 million children are living without a father in the home. The effects are astounding:
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average
• 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average
• 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average
• Living in a single-parent home doubles the risk that a child will suffer physical, emotional, or educational neglect
• Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor
As much as mothers love and nurture for their children, they are not fathers and cannot replace that masculine role model. Fathers make deposits in their children's lives from which the child is able to take withdrawals. Re-entering fathers must fight for their children with the understanding that generational chains have to be broken before unification can occur. The brokenness did not begin in the present situation with this child and that mother. The missing father may himself be a victim. Fathers must start where they are and heal through love.
Parenting is a "learn as you go" proposition. Children don't come with instruction manuals. He can begin to heal by talking, and learning to share vulnerable emotions that all men have but keep hidden just below the surface. He may be terrified of rejection. But so are his sons and daughters. The eventual reunion can be awkward because there are no repositories of shared memories – the connective tissues that bind relationships together. It is up to the father to build a floor for the child's love to stand on.
After a brief intermission and a wardrobe change, we tackled the next show on families in crisis. Me on the stage with Oprah in the audience talking reporter-style to her guests experiencing family-centered pain. In that session we talked about how so many family relationships fall into crisis when members major in "conflict" but flunk "resolution." So many people nurture old wounds and hang onto their history at the expense of their destiny. We must learn to forgive. Let it go! Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. It does not exonerate the perpetrator; it allows you the freedom to move on unencumbered by the toxicity of past hurts. We're all broken. Everybody has pain. But, love builds the bridge. Love is strengthened by brokenness. The beauty is in its imperfections.
When I was a young, I saved up to buy my mother a suede jacket. The care instruction label informed me that the slubs and imperfections were present to show authenticity and to add to its beauty. To move forward, the wounded family member must be willing to:
• Be vulnerable and express what he feel or misses about the person with whom he is out of relationship
• Exhibit perfect love for imperfect people
• Meet that individual on her level and accept what he or she has to offer. But, if the relationship can't be saved, save yourself.
We may simply want more than the other person is able to give. There are some 10 gallon people in the world who are in relationship with pint size people. They don't fill the 10 gallons up. We closed the show with few dry eyes in the house. I can't give away the show. Tune in to catch all of the "Ah Ha" moments, live twitter feeds, and special guests.