The Power of a Father's Blessing
In his day, Bill Glass was one of the most outstanding football players in the National Football League, playing on the 1964 champion Cleveland Browns and making the NFL Pro Bowl four times. In 1969, long before prison ministry became popular among evangelicals, Glass founded what is now called Champions for Life. The ministry invites professional athletes to speak to prisoners, following up with trained volunteers who commit themselves to building lasting relationships with juvenile inmates. After three-and-a-half decades of ministry, Glass, with Terry Pluto, has written Champions for Life: The Healing Power of a Father's Blessing (Faith Communications, 2005) to address an issue that is sorely affecting the fabric of the nation.
What is our country's biggest problem?
A lack of the father's blessing. The FBI studied the 17 kids that have shot their classmates in little towns like Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; and Littleton, Colorado. All 17 shooters had only one thing in common. They had a father problem. I see it so much; it's just unbelievable. There's something about it when a man doesn't get along with his father. It makes him mean; it makes him dangerous; it makes him angry.
On the day before Father's Day, I was in North Carolina in a juvenile prison. I ate lunch with three boys. I asked the first boy, "Is your dad coming to see you tomorrow on Father's Day?"
He said, "No, he's not coming."
"He's in prison."
I asked the second boy the same question and got the same answer.
I asked the third one why his dad wasn't coming, and he said, "He got out of prison about nine months ago, and he's doing good, and I'm proud of my father. He's really going to be a good dad to me, and he's going to go straight."
I could tell he was protesting so strongly because something was still wrong. So I said, "How many times has he been here to see you since he got out nine months ago?"
He said, "He hasn't made it yet."
"Well, he lives way, way away."
"Where does he live?"
"He lives in Durham."
Durham was only two hours away. I had come 1,500 miles to visit the boy. His dad couldn't come two hours? There are a lot of fathers who are really deserters. When I'm in prison, I always challenge the inmates to bless their kids. If you want to keep your kids out of prison, bless them.
What was your relationship with your father like?
My earliest recollections are that my father would sit on my bedside and rub my back and tell me what a fine boy I was, and almost every night, he would kiss me on the mouth. He was a pro baseball player, a very manly man. But he had no problem expressing his love and blessing to me and to my brother and sister.
My dad died when I was only 14 years old, and he had been sick for about two years before he died. I had a huge hole in my heart. I felt despairing. My mother was very loving and warm, but it just wasn't the same as when my dad was there.
My coach was told that I had lost my father and that it really hit me hard. So every day after workout, he'd stay out with me, and he'd teach me how to play football. He would walk with me after workout to the dressing room with his arm around me. He'd ask me to sit beside him on the bus going out to the game, and he'd just talk to me. Then at noon he'd meet with me, and we'd lift weights for about an hour. I moved from being the slowest, smallest player on the team to, within a year, being unblockable, because I learned good fundamentals. And I didn't even like football then. The only reason I played was because I wanted my father's blessing.