Whether I was aware of it or not, I often found myself as a dad navigating my children away from points of vulnerability. I suppose it started appropriately enough… no good dad wants to expose their children to danger: traffic, hot stoves, or unfettered electric current. Yet implicit in this philosophy was a tendency to steer myself and my kids away from the vulnerable.
Raising our family in suburban, middle-class Kansas City was its own protective environment. Yet, I confess with some regret, that I seldom found opportunities to expose my children to those who live with less protection and safety.
To some extent, I contrast this with my own childhood. I too grew up in a middle-class neighborhood though my early years were lived outside of Chicago. But with some level of regularity, my parents would load all of us in a vehicle (I have five siblings and we had no minivans, so I’m not even sure how this was possible… except seatbelts weren’t around!) and we would head to downtown Chicago to a Rescue Mission. We would sing and serve and teach. There were young and old. Black and white. Addicted, impoverished, neglected and overlooked. The vulnerable.
This regular brush with vulnerability was good for me. No, it was more than that. It was shaping and moving and terrifying. I was completely out of my element, but my parents seemed to understand that “my element” wasn’t enough; it lacked a richness and depth and perspective that is only calibrated by the vulnerable. By those who live humbly and broken. By those who need help.
Good fathering isn’t nested in the pursuit of self-reliance. It’s not at it’s best when it’s bulletproof or ironclad. Authentic dadcraft finds vulnerability and the vulnerable to be a wonderful usher to grace and compassion and mercy. To perspectives unexplored, to vantage points unseen.
So what if, as dadcraft dads, we planned regular trips to vulnerability. A local assisted living facility. The cancer ward of a children’s hospital. Volunteering at a Special Olympics event. Finding a house that needs a weekend of work for a vulnerable owner.
Engage, don’t avoid. Intentionally and thoughtfully get involved… with the vulnerable. It’s dadcraft at it’s best.