In celebration of Father’s Day, Dr. Tony Rapu, has written a letter to 11 year old Shanawole, a child rescued from the streets during a recent God Bless Nigeria/Freedom Foundation rehabilitation mission. Shanawole is now under the care and counsel of Dr. Rapu.
It’s another Father’s Day, but I know that until now, this day has not held much meaning for you.
For you, the concept of a father has been a fuzzy one, perhaps nothing more than a term used to describe an older man. You grew up on the streets, never knowing the warmth of a hug from a natural father, never experiencing that strong voice of protection and direction that a father brings into the life of his son. There have been no words of caution to steady you when the adrenaline is pumping through your veins, causing that strong temptation to do what you know is wrong.
When other children your age recount the joy of a dad teaching them a game, watching them play, and rejoicing or commiserating with them afterwards, to you their stories only exacerbate the painful void that exists within you.
This is the same feeling that often tugs at the heart of the girl who never knew her dad. She feels a pang of pain perhaps when she imagines not having her father there to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Even some of our single mums live daily with the stigma and feeling of loss that comes from raising a ‘fatherless’ child.
My dear Shanawole, it’s easy to take the downward slide into drugs, violence and rebellion as you have done. It can be very tempting to revolt against a world that has been cold and unloving towards you. And that has been your journey. You have rebelled against society, you have until now counted yourself out of life’s best, imagining that a home, a loving family and valuable contributions to society are beyond your reach, something only a privileged few attain to.
I know the odds seem stacked against you; I know many have counted you out and spoken harsh words to you. I am aware that life often seems unfair. I know the pain you’ve encountered at the hands of those who should have protected you. The only words you may have heard are words of rejection and negativity. You have been told to your face that you will never amount to anything and that your life has little value. Yet, I want you to know that not everyone takes the downward spiral. Some with even seemingly worse circumstances have broken free from the cycle of failure.
Life is about choices. Nothing stays broken forever, unless you want it to- not a life, not a career, family, body, finance, nothing! You can escape, you can choose to leave the pain behind, you can fill that black hole left by someone’s abandonment. You can be the answer to someone’s prayers, you can find that love you need to move forward, you can change your family history forever.
I know you have been conditioned to view the circumstances of your birth and upbringing as a handicap or disadvantage. You have come to believe that your abandonment has to do with who you are, a confirmation of your worthlessness as a person. But let me tell you a secret – you are not a freak of nature, a mistake, or an error of judgment. Regardless of how you came about, God saw all your talents and possibilities and in His wisdom, He decided that your peculiar circumstance was the place for the display of those unique gifts and possibilities. You were born for such a time like this, in a country like this, because hidden in all the seeming disadvantages and troubles are great opportunities and abilities.
The only challenge now is whether you hear and respond to His call, or choose to lament like those who have no hope. It’s all about you and the choices you make. You can win when others lose. You can rise when others sink. You can be a winner in a world of losers and failures. The circumstances of your birth and your surrounding issues do not determine whether you win or lose. You decide! Take David for example, the great King David. It was a day like any other when he took a decision to fight Goliath. The problem is that you are waiting for a time when everyone will support you, when you’ll get a great applause and have success delivered to you on a platter of gold. But who gave David any of that? No one. Yet, he ran towards the enemy and against all odds, he won!
Just like you too will win. But to win, you must choose to be different. First, change your mindset, how you think, and how you respond to things. Stop spewing all that negativity, stop blaming the circumstances of your birth for your current condition. Maybe until now you blamed your absent father, but from today you have to take responsibility for your life. Take ownership of your destiny. I want you to realize that God is counting on you, Nigeria is counting on you and most importantly, you – the real you hidden beneath all the negativity you’ve carried for so long – are counting on you!
You can make it; you can make a difference. Challenges are not meant to destroy you or lead you into destructive behavior. Challenges only remind us that we’re human and that we need God. My son, you can rise to the top, you can be everything you were created to be. You can contribute your quota to national development and be one of those to take Nigeria into an enviable future. In this orphaned generation, you are the great son everyone is waiting for.
I believe in you. Happy Father’s Day!
Your spiritual Dad