Salesmen, engineers, policemen, IT professionals, truck drivers, small business workers, contractors, and factory workers.
Blue collar, white collar, or no collar at all.
Car by car they drove up the hill to the rustic lodge.
Men from different backgrounds, different ethnic heritages, different professions, and different parts of the country- all gathering together for the weekend.
We all had one thing in common. We were all fathers of children with special needs.
No one really knew what to expect. They arrived a little nervous, a little anxious, and a little unsure about the next couple of days.
Over the weekend we just hung out together. Our time consisted of lots of ribs, chicken wings, pancake breakfasts, grilling, football, movies, hiking, and spontaneous conversations around the roaring fireplace.
No one played an acoustic guitar.
No one initiated a group hug.
No one held hands and sang “Kumbaya.”
No one was forced to bare their soul or share their innermost feelings and emotions.
I watched in awe as God began to move. Men connected with each other and spontaneously shared their stories. Dads found community, relationships, and common ground.
Older dads poured into younger dads. Younger dads inspired the older dads. And it all happened organically in casual environments and conversations.
In the occasional group session, we talked a lot about stepping into the roles for which God had called us and chosen for us. We talked about having the courage to be the leaders of our families, and the fathers that God desires us to be for our children.
I didn’t preach. I didn’t lecture. I just shared from my own experiences as one of them.
My band of brothers.
A raging fire on a cold night is a powerful common denominator for men.
On Sunday morning, our group of dads took communion together. We prayed together and then I prayed over each of them by name. They circled me as they laid hands on me and prayed over me.
I shook with emotion and furiously choked back the massive lump in my throat, listening to them.
We proudly put on out new uniform. Our t-shirts that declared, “I am…Chosen, Called, Committed.” We rocked the #No More Vacant Dads name on the back of our shirts with pride.
They came from three different states but they were leaving in one united state. We still had the same giants in our special-needs lives. But we were fully prepared to punch those giants in the face…together.
We left a little taller. We left with a little swagger. We left with a little more hope, a little more encouraged, and a lot more proud.
Back-to-back we stood.
All of a sudden I realized what had happened.
We were no longer special-needs dads. We were no longer a group of men raising children with special needs.
We were warriors, providers, and protectors. We had found each other in a common foxhole dug for dads of children with special needs.
But that no longer defined us.
We were brothers.
My band of brothers.
Chosen, called, and committed.
#No More Vacant Dads