The little girl I’ll call Hannah was a complete stranger until she absolutely rocked my family’s world.
Hannah, a seventh grader, lives in our neighborhood, and I’d noticed her a couple times playing in the park we can see from our kitchen window. It’s the place to be for all fourth through seventh graders in their neon-colored Nike Elites and LeBron James high-tops.
My wife Holly and I noticed that Hannah began to linger around the park a lot more. Then she started making her way to our house to jump on the trampoline or play video games with our three kids. I was getting used to seeing Hannah often, but I didn’t know much about her.
A few weeks ago, while watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals with my kids and Hannah, I asked her several questions. What came out of her precious mouth wrecked my heart.
Hannah is one of nine kids. She told me her parents aren’t divorced but that her dad doesn’t live with them anymore. I asked why. She replied in a broken voice, “Because he was killed in a car accident two months ago. He was hit by a drunk driver.”
My heart fell to the floor.
I no longer cared how many points LeBron scored or if my kids took their nightly shower. All I could think was that this precious girl was made fatherless—her world shattered—in an instant. Through my shock, I remembered an Andy Stanley quote: “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”
In that moment, Hannah became our one.
As I sat there with my mouth hanging open, my boys arguing over whether LeBron or Curry or Jordan was the better basketball player, Hannah quietly wiped her tears. I heard God tell me, “She is going to have some gaps in her life. Step in and fill the ones you can. Be Me to her. I am the Father to the fatherless. Show her.”
Related: The Dad I Didn't Have
Over the next week, I realized God wasn’t asking me to do anything huge. Just to be a little more intentional in involving Hannah in our lives.
To swing by her house on the way to the pool with an invitation to join us.
To offer her a ride to church on Sunday.
To include her in a kickball game.
To throw an extra burger on the grill.
To watch one more trick on the trampoline.
To the fathers who have healthy families, committed wives, happy and well-cared-for kids, homes full of laughter, and bills that get paid every month, I want to say this: Thank you for your leadership. For staying committed, for pulling into the driveway every evening. You are heroes.
But what if God were asking us to be a hero to just one more?
According to the National Center for Fathering, one of every three kids is growing up without their biological father in the home. Those kids are more likely to run away, abuse drugs and alcohol, suffer behavior problems, drop out of high school, and commit suicide.
If you’re a stepfather, a foster dad, an adoptive dad, or a mentor to a fatherless child, thank you for owning the gaps! But for those of us who aren’t any of those things, we can still make a difference. We can step into the lives of the Hannahs in our own neighborhoods and make them our one more.
You know, if I’m being completely honest, some days when I get home from work I’m tired and don’t feel like playing with my kids. But when Hannah’s standing there next to them asking me to throw a football or jump on the trampoline, I see the mountain of expectation in her eyes. And I say yes. Because even though my kids get my attention all the time, Hannah may never have a grown man throw a football with her or watch her do tricks on the trampoline or tell her she’s a great runner.
So I push past my exhaustion and run into the backyard night after night.
Hannah makes me a better father to my own kids. And she makes me realize that although I don’t have this parenting thing down completely—do any of us ever?—maybe this whole thing isn’t just for the three kids God has given me.
Maybe it’s for one more too.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads who are knocking it out of the park in your own families and to all the “one more” fathers. You are both changing the world.