The Cowardly Lion and Neck Ties
So, this is Week 10 at Jobs Partnership, a 12-week program for the under and unemployed. The partnership is between local businesses and churches. I am a mentor for Tuesday nights, where I join my four women at Table 5 each week for discussions on conflict resolution, relationships, authority, working with excellence, etc. We have some of the best teaching from the inner-city pastors who can preach! My women do their Bible studies each week for Tuesday nights. On Thursdays, they prepare for the Job Fair by learning interview skills, constructing a resume, and working with Dress for Success. They also take an assessment to find out where their gifts are. When I asked one of my ladies if she thought the assessment represented her well: She held the pages to her chest and exclaimed, “This is me on paper!” I wept. No one had ever told her what she’s good at.
Sunday was another weepy day. The PAUL MITCHELL School hosted a day of make-overs for the students in JP. Two of my Table 5 ladies came; I picked them up from the shelter where they live with the children, and off we went. There were stylists, make-up artists, nutritionists and photographers. I loved watching the transformation before my eyes. One lady, Linda, reminded me of the Cowardly Lion.
Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her friends finally made it to the Emerald City, and they had makeovers? The Lion had about three attendants curling his locks and and pampering him. That’s what Linda looked like. They colored her hair, and then three of the stylists were blowing it out straight. When Linda was finally swirled around in her chair to see herself, she began crying with joy. No one had ever pampered her. No one had ever cheered her on in this way. I started bawling and resting my wet face in her new hair.
Then tonight always gets me. It’s the Tuesday before the Thursday mock Job Fair. And it’s the night that men who don’t know how to tie ties learn. They gather in the front corner of the room, and the other men and mentors go over the ins and outs of the neck tie. For some reason, it makes me cry. No daddy ever taught these grown men to tie a tie. No one did. I become undone and sneak off to my car for a cry home.
Maybe because it represents the biggest problem in this culture where my friends live: fatherlessness. My women all have children, some by different men. None are married. Two live in shelter for women and children. And the men who fathered their children cause them such emotional distress, I almost wish they’d leave them alone altogether. But I know the children need Dads. According to one government study: “Children of fatherless families have greater and earlier sexual activity, dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, more mental illness, more suicide, poorer educational performance, and higher rates of teen pregnancy, criminality, and sexual abuse. They are more likely to have suffered child abuse and more often have earlier death, confused identities (boys), more aggressive behavior (boys), more emotional distress, uncooperative behavior, more anxiety and depression (girls), more antisocial behavior, and school suspensions.”
I’ve seen these effects up close in the girls I mentor (no Dads involved at all, no male role models), and I see it lived out 10 years later in the women in JP. I don’t know an easy solution, but I cheer on Kisi who is marrying my beloved Keira, and I cheer on the men who are bravely and humbly learning to tie neckties, though no Daddy was there to teach them. May they break the fatherlessness chain!