It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy Thanksgiving and forget that we gather for a simple and sacred purpose -- to say thanks.
For many people, “family” leads the list of things they’re thankful for. And with good reason. For all their faults and foibles, our family members bring us so much enduring happiness and inspire so many happy memories that it’s hard to imagine life without them.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much imagination for some people, especially those steeped in poverty. That often means children whose fathers are absent.
According to Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector, nearly 80 percent of long-term child poverty occurs in broken or never-married families. “Each year government spends over $200 billion on means-tested aid to families with children; three-quarters of this aid flows to single-parent families,” Rector testified before Congress last February. “Children raised without a father in the home are more likely to experience: emotional and behavioral problems, school failure, drug and alcohol abuse, crime and incarceration.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. Men’s hearts are not cut from stone. Groups determined to improve their communities can reach out and help them understand that God has a plan for them. I’d like to profile one such group -- BOND, the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny -- and suggest that we say an extra prayer this Thanksgiving for those who not only appreciate their own families but help other families as well.
BOND has been pursuing its mission -- Rebuilding the Family by Rebuilding the Man” -- since 1990. Founded by the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, the group focused at first on helping black men “come back to God and character,” in the words of BOND spokesman Patrick Rooney. “But due to the success we were having, men and women of all races began coming to us for help, and so we expanded the scope of our work to include everybody but have still kept our focus on helping the black man and young people.”
BOND does this by providing:
• Sunday services and meetings (at its Los Angeles headquarters).
• Phone and in-person counseling (1-800-411-2663).
• A nationally syndicated radio talk show (www.inforadionet.com).
• A television show (The Jesse Lee Peterson Show).
• The BOND Newsletter.
“We provide public speakers; host workshops and seminars, and operate programs, including The BOND Home, in which we house young men aged 13-25 and show them how to be responsible, upstanding members of the community,” the group notes on its Web site. “We also operate our BOND After School Character-Building Program and an Entrepreneur Program, where we instruct men and women how to budget, save, invest and start their own businesses.”
In short, they get involved -- and make a difference. One reason they’ve succeeded, Rooney says, is their independence: BOND never has asked for or received any government funding. “Because our message is so forthright, raising funds has always been a challenge,” he says. “But we believe we accomplish a lot with a little.”
He’s not kidding about the “forthright” part. It takes nerve to say that the government, through the welfare system, has discouraged men from being in the home, but that’s what you’ll hear from BOND. According to Rooney, “Sometimes angry callers to Jesse’s radio show will say, ‘The white man must be paying you to say this!’ Jesse usually responds: ‘If any white people out there would like to pay me for telling the truth, just call or write a check!’”
Anyone who is inspired to write a check should consider supporting BOND’s current drive to reduce the mortgage load on its Home for Boys -- so that it can create a second home to answer the great need out there.
“The key is forgiveness,” Rev. Peterson says. “Showing young men how to forgive is our first and most important step. Once they understand that, the rest is easy. They start to think for themselves. They're taught how to get and hold a job, they learn trades and how to start their own businesses. They're tutored as needed and are shown how to stand up as self-reliant, productive and confident men.”
But time is running short for BOND to take advantage of a generous offer from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation -- to match every dollar BOND raises up to $75,000. At this point, they have about $35,000.
So don’t just thank God for your family. Help others get in a position to offer the same prayer. Supporting a group such as BOND is a wonderful way to do that -- and give broken families the “self-reliant, productive and confident men” they so desperately need.