Did you ever wonder about the fathers? I have. I wonder what Simon and Andrew’s father thought when this man came along and the boys abandoned the boat. I wonder what Mister Zebedee felt when James and John left him to follow the man. You see, I have a son.
My son is a Traveler. He has called himself a Christian Traveler at times to distinguish himself from the bums and thieves, homeless people and throw-away kids that populate a sub-culture which for the most part remains out-of-sight in America. He lives like one who is homeless but that does not matter to him. He knows more people and has more places to stay across the country than anyone I ever heard of.
The summer he turned eighteen he went on a church mission trip to NYC, and instead of returning home, he visited my sister on Long Island. He spent one night, left in the morning and walked – did not drive or ride or hitch-hike, but walked to Los Angeles. It took him five and a half months and his mother and I had no idea where he was that whole time, or even if he was alive or dead.
He often has a Bible or carries some great work of classic literature stuffed in a backpack under a sleeping bag. He often carries a sketch pad to satisfy his artistic bent, and a guitar to strum. He has played with a number of bands, some underground, some surprisingly not so underground. And recently he has taken to carrying a banjo.
I know he has found any number of underage kids and in a sense rescued them, finding them places to stay, work to do and food to eat. I know he has worked in soup kitchens and shelters across the country. Understand, if someone gives him money, by the end of the day he has found a way to spend it to feed others. If someone give him something like a pair of shoes or some such thing, by the end of the day he has found someone else to give it to that needs it more. He travels light.
From Maine to Chicago to Minnesota to Seattle and Portland Oregon. From Florida to Charlotte, Lynchburg VA to Saint Louis. From New Orleans to Kansas City to Denver, he travels. He knows people everywhere. His Facebook friends number in the thousands. And his dad? I worry and pray for him and feel helpless.
Most recently he was occupying Oakland, but has little to say about the protest part. His stories all talk about breaking down walls and building bridges between the many diverse and previously distrustful communities in the city. He talks about people learning to communicate across neighborhood boundaries and many, for the first time in their lives, learning to take responsibility for themselves and share and care for their neighbors. He talks about the people in this poor and working-class city taking back control of their own city from the owners and career politicians.
When the Oakland police came with tear gas, he went to the press conference and stood right next to the interim Chief of Police. The Mayor screwed up on that one. The Deputy Mayor camped with the occupiers for a while and at least one prominent city attorney quit the city to help defend some of the occupiers. He cannot speak for the movement elsewhere, but in Oakland it was far from the way it was reported or understood on the left or the right, and it was much closer to a poverty version of the Tea Party than most want to believe. It was about making peace between people, taking personal responsibility, and building the kind of community a city ought to be, which is a system that serves the people rather than what it has become all across the country where the people are only there to serve the system.
Of course, he had little to do with the protests themselves, not being a native. Instead, he spent his time helping to set up and run the kitchens, collecting donations and cooking to feed the hundreds and sometimes thousands. He helped organize the medical tent, and encouraged the community of ministers in their own tent who came to meet the spiritual needs of so many. He could not speak for elsewhere, but in Oakland, many of the small business in town got on board. And frankly, they did not care if the food came from the Black Panthers, the Muslim community or Chinatown, it all went to feed the poor and hungry. Even some police, before they were threatened from above, came around for coffee and whatever my son was cooking up. The security people hired by the city did not have the same restrictions. They enjoyed the coffee, and Thanksgiving as well.
On Thanksgiving, my son and the many with him cooked as many turkeys as they received, and all the fixings they could find. They set up all the tables and chairs they had and even got red and white checked tablecloths and candles for each table. Because sanitation was a big complaint against the occupiers, they collected some money and had the port-a-potty people make a drop so those who came for the community Thanksgiving feast could have somewhere to go. The city sent the police and the police said nothing about the tables. The fire department said nothing about the open candles. They took the port-a-potty away because the occupiers had not paid the government for the right permits or some such thing. My son’s comment was, childish. He later amended that to infantile, and was grateful the pizza place across the street made their bathrooms available.
My son came home for a visit. Where he will go from here, I cannot say. I wonder what the father of Simon and Andrew felt and thought when his sons abandoned the nets. What did Father Zebedee think when his sons left behind the business and all of the normal expectations and responsibilities of what is called a normal life? I am sure there was anger at first, and probably words. Jesus’ own mother, brothers and sisters came once to Capernaum to collect him and no doubt, “bring him back to reality.”
I believe in the end, though, all the fathers could do was worry, and feel helpless and pray for their sons. Where were they headed? What was this strange call and drive that had taken hold of them? Why couldn’t they settle down like normal people, to live and love and marry and have children of their own? How will it all end up? I think in truth after a certain point, prayer might be the only thing a father can do – it might be the only thing they are left with. Luckily, it may be the best thing. I know it is just about all I have.