What a Boy Needs
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given
– Isaiah 9:6
The mother gazed at me earnestly, then looked down at her hands clasping a worn and used tissue. As she looked up at me again, I waited patiently for her to unburden herself to me, knowing how difficult it sometimes is for women to stand in the gap for their husbands.
‘Please Zane, won’t you come and speak to my husband?’
I looked at her and waited for her to continue.
‘He’s left everything up to me. I pay the bills at the end of the month, I have to discipline the children, in fact my seventeen-year-old son locks himself in his room most of the time when his father isn’t home, and he’s become surly and difficult to deal with … All I want is that my husband should be a man, a father to our child and a husband to me in the house. Please, won’t you speak to my husband?’
After arranging a conference session with her husband, I spent some time with him and he revealed to me that he grew up without a dad, his father never having been part of their lives. He vowed that he would never do that to his family and that he would always be there for them. But, he admitted to me, ‘I don’t know how to be a father, I’m doing the best that I know how.’ This came as no surprise to me because many men today have no idea what being a father is all about. Most of them are playing a role they have never known before.
As an actor I know what it is like to receive my script a few weeks before filming or going onto a stage, to learn the lines, to find the motivation of the character, to learn the moves, to learn the mannerisms and the inflections with which the character will express himself. So that when I go out to perform, after many weeks of rehearsal, I can give a true portrayal of the type of person as depicted by the character I am playing. In the same way, we need our parents to be our script so that we can act out the example they have set for us. However, there are many men today, or even boys, who are fathers and yet have no idea what being a father entails. No script in their life, no image, no mentor, no role model, no example to follow. This, I believe, is the South Africa of today.
When I joined the daily television drama, 7de Laan, I went around introducing myself to all the other actors and the crew. Ihad to share a dressing room with a young man named Freedom Hadebe, who plays the role of Mandla. I introduced myself to him, ‘Hi Freedom, my name is Zane.’
‘My name is Freedom Kgosimore Hadebe,’ he replied. ‘My father’s name is Vincent Khulani Hadebe from the Hlubi tribe.’ He then proceeded to tell me his grandfathers’ and great-grandfathers’ names. It took him about five minutes to introduce himself. I could see he is a young man who is confident, knows exactly where he is going, but more importantly, also knows where he comes from. Here was a young man who knew his identity because he had received his ‘script’ from his father.
Identity is Important
What a boy needs is a father who will give him his identity, who will tell him where he comes from and where he is going. That is one of the primary purposes of a father. Freedom Hadebe is only twenty six years old, but he is one of the most successful business people I know. He runs an airport shuttle service, rents out houses and is involved in various other businesses. He has acquired knowledge by attending lectures on financial management and financial prosperity which he has applied to his life. And I have no doubt that in the near future he will attain his dream of being a millionaire before the age of thirty. I attribute his success to the fact that his father had taken the time to teach him good, solid, foundational principles. Coming from a Zulu family still keeping to their cultural background, he has managed to keep up the connection with tradition that his father has taught him. Freedom lives in suburban Soweto in Johannesburg, but his family has instilled in him a strong sense of self-belief, purpose and destiny. Freedom Hadebe knows what his potential is, what he is capable of and the personal heights that he can reach.
This is what a boy needs. This is what a father does for his son and this is what all good fathers can do for their sons. A boy needs someone to tell him that he has what it takes inside him, and no matter what, that his dad is proud of him. These are the most important words that any boy would want to hear from his father, ‘My son, I’m proud of you and you have what it takes to be a man.’ There are so many boys today who have never heard those words. All children want to know that they are part of a support system where they can express themselves and find security and acceptance.
Ed Cole, in his book, Maximized Manhood1, coined a phrase that has lived with me and has become the catchphrase that I use wherever I go, ‘Boys join gangs because they don’t belong to a gang called family, led by a leader called father.’ That is all every boy needs, a leader to give him direction and identity. And if he can’t find it at home, he will go looking for it elsewhere. Gangs have never quite disappeared from our neighbourhoods although there has been a respite from gang-related crimes for a while in ‘gang hotspot’ areas such as Westbury in Johannesburg. But of late that trend has been reversed and gang-related statistics are soaring again. This, I believe, is indicative of the increase in the number of broken homes in the area. The boys in this area are looking for leadership and, not finding it at home, are looking to the gang leaders to provide it.
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.
– Galatians 3:23
During my travels doing research I met Muneera Mohamed2 who works with the Southern Cape Correctional Services in Mossel Bay. She also works with the Department of Social Services and deals with quite a large number of school children. She told me that most young boys who find themselves incarcerated actually prefer being in prison. Incredulously I looked at her, not sure that I had heard correctly. She explained that when they did a study on the mindset of incarcerated youths, they discovered that these young boys preferred to be in prison because there they know where they fit in. They have routines, rules and regulations and they have duties. At 05:30 the lights go on and that means they have to get up and at a set time at night the lights go off and they know they have to sleep. Again at a certain time the bell rings and they know that they have to eat. On their way they have to walk in lines, and there are fixed times for recreational activity outside in the yard. Very often, most of them belong to a particular group or gang in prison. ‘I hate to generalise,’ she said, ‘but most of these young guys join a gang, and in the gang they have a specific purpose.’ In prison they are either the fetcher, carrier or the messenger. But they know exactly where they fit in and what they need to do to prove they have what it takes and hopefully to hear someone say they did a good job.
‘Surely no one would prefer to be in prison?’ I asked disbelievingly. And she said, ‘You know, Zane, we need to have a look at our parole system in South Africa, because when these young boys come out of prison and they step out into the streets, there is very little help for them out there. There is no mentorship programme, there is very little support to help them to secure and keep a job, and the programmes that help them to reintegrate back into society are cursory.’ She said this passionately. ‘Mostly, they have no stable home life to go back to.’ According to her these young men very often simply commit a petty crime so that they can go back to jail where they have more security, more purpose and where they know where they fit in. And in prison they have role models too, people who look out for them and watch their back, more so than they do in life outside prison. It is a choice they prefer to make. Good role models in the community where they come from are few and far between and conspicuous by their absence.
Community Role Models
When I was asked to join the cast of 7de Laan, I told them that I would only accept if I could play the role of a character who would be a positive role model for my people. Coloured people, in my opinion, have been portrayed on television in a particularly stereotypical manner that is not a true reflection of our community – that of either the gangster, the drug dealer or someone who has stolen something and is on the run, ‘on the lam’ as they say. These are the images that are being portrayed on television generally. Coloured people are the jolly alcoholics, the guys who are always making jokes and have no front teeth, and who speak with the funny accents.
I told the producers that I could not play a role like that. I wanted my character to be a positive role model for my people. My family members in the story are also good role models – one son is a lawyer and the other runs a business while my wife in the story has just bought a business of her own.
Many of the role models often left over in our communities, once the successful business people have moved out, are the gangsters, the drug-dealers, the shebeen owners and so on. So that is why it was so important to me that my character would be a positive role model for my people.
Boys join gangs because they don’t belong to a gang called family led by a leader called father. Identity is not about who you are. Identity is about whose you are. Once you know whose child you are, you will know who you are! Philippians 4:20 says, ‘To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.’ Paul tells us that we belong to God and that should inform our identity. Jesus Christ himself came down to earth with the purpose of showing us the heart of God the Father. He came to tell us whose we are. That we belong to a Father who loves us and who sent His son to die for us so that we would not be lost, but would be redeemed back to Him.
Who are you? Do you know whose child you are?
An Ishmael Generation
The account of Ishmael and Abraham is a prime example of a father-son relationship gone badly wrong. From birth until he was fifteen years old, Ishmael lived with his father. He did everything that a son in a normal sense would do with a father and his father did everything with his son. For example, Ishmael was circumcised when God gave the covenant of circumcision to Abraham. Abraham taught him to hunt and fish and treated him with the love and support of a caring father.
And then, along comes Isaac, the promised son and things change dramatically. God allowed Abraham to listen to his wife, Sarah, and he sent Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, out of the house and into the wilderness. Can you just imagine what this would do to any boy? At the age of fifteen, after having lived with a father all his life, to be told that he was no longer a son, but the child of a servant and that he no longer belonged in his father’s house. This, I am sure, must have affected Ishmael for the rest of his life – wondering what he had done wrong to deserve such treatment. The account of how Ishmael and his mother are miraculously saved by God in the desert is recounted in Genesis 21.
The name Ishmael means, ‘God hears my cry’. And it is the cry of Ishmael that God hears in the wilderness and rescues them. The next and last time he sees his father is at Abraham’s funeral many years later. One can only imagine the regrets and emotions Ishmael had as he watched his very last chance of reconciling with his father and perhaps hearing the words ‘My son …’ go into the grave with the body of his father, Abraham. How he must have cried at the sight.
At the heart of Ishmael’s cry is a desire to be loved by a father and the
need for identity.
– Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik makes a statement about the descendants of Ishmael, ‘… who built a memorial around the cry of Ishmael and called it Islam, which means to submit to God like a servant, rather than having a relationship, like a son.’³ The Bible teaches us in Romans 6:6 that we are no longer slaves to sin, and in Galatians 3:23-26 that we are not prisoners of the law, but sons by faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly many of our young boys, caught up like Ishmael, in lawlessness and turmoil because they have been abandoned by their daddies, are crying out in the wilderness of confusion and lost identity.
Lees verder aan Deel 2 van Daddy, come home