February 21, 2020 by Lynda Steele, Furnishing Fatherhood
The reaction to a simple act of kindness from a community of people who systematically do not see support is a humbling experience. Reaching out to a father to say “I do this because you matter,” even though I do not know him personally, is important to both of us. I fully understand that, to their children, they matter as much as anything in the world. That is why I provide furnishings for homes for non-custodial fathers.
The typical response I get from men and fathers when we meet up is “Wow, I didn’t think you were real.” With shock and watery eyes they approach me and follow up with “It just seems like no one cares about dads.” Most of these men, by the time we find each other, are emotionally exhausted and half expecting Furnishing Fatherhood and the support it offers to be a scam. When we finally connect and they are provided the items they need for their homes and children, emotions flow freely. They tell me how much they care about their children, as if they are used to having to explain themselves. I greet them all with a big smile a warm hug and continue to remind them that I do this because their fatherhood matters. I reassure them that I can see how much they love their children and in that moment they begin to feel like they can breathe again and that they aren’t alone. I could have never imagined that showing up to father's home with a car seat or box of clothes for their children could bring such a huge sigh of relief. It doesn’t take someone with a lot of money or resources to help, it only takes someone with compassion and willingness to put in the work.
This past Christmas I placed a post on Facebook looking for non-custodial parents to help during the holidays. One dad in particular made a huge impression on me. He is a father to three little boys who must be only in his mid-twenties. We met at my truck in which I had a huge box of toys for his boys. He walked “jaw-dropped” towards me and immediately broke down as soon as he got to me. Tearing up he just said, “I didn’t think you were real. No one cares about dads”. Wide eyed, trying to hold back my own tears I looked at him and said “Well I care about dads”. I put the box down on the hood of my truck, gave him a hug and said, “There is a whole community of people who care about fathers, but you have to reach out to us so we know you exist.” He hugged me back and agreed.
I have been advocating and helping fathers for little over a year now. Every day I check the Furnishing Fatherhood email ([email protected]) and without fail the first message in a new correspondence from a father looking for support is “Is this real?” To this day, after a year of providing furnishings to homes in Oklahoma, fathers are in disbelief that Furnishing Fatherhood exists. It doesn’t matter how many different social media posts are made letting fathers know we are here and that they matter. What truly changes lives is actual human connection, taking the time to reach out to fathers, meet them, sit with them and be a source of support. It’s vital to these men to know that they are important and their fatherhood isn’t invisible or something that can be replaced or overlooked. That is what I believe is making a difference in my community.
Every time we provide furnishings for a home for a father, help with gifts for the holidays or for their children's birthdays it is very important that I give the items to the fathers without their children around. It is less important that we receive recognition from assisting these fathers and more important that their children have a sense of security that their dads can provide for them. Furnishing Fatherhood helps return dignity to these fathers and security back to their children. We don’t look for recognition, we seek to build up and support fatherhood. Knowing that we have positively affected these homes and that fathers know that we are real and they aren’t alone is what matters the most.
If you have never heard of Furnishing Fatherhood and are reading about us for the very first time, know that your fatherhood is vitally important, you aren’t alone and we are real. I will leave you with the last words I tell all dad’s when I meet them. “If no one has told you lately, your fatherhood matters.”
Lynda Steele is the founder of Furnishing Fatherhood. They seek to help fathers who have gone through a divorce or separation furnish their homes and provide necessities so they can remain active parents in their children's lives.