Friday, September 30, 2011

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

The following story is an example of the giving spirit of one man. Father Flanagan was not a bereaved parent, but he was a man who saw a 'need' and did something to help. As bereaved parents the love we have for our child never dies. Within it lies the power of positve energy. That energy can be used in so many ways to help others. This energy/love has often been called a 'giving' memorial.

Edward Joseph Flanagan was born in Ireland, but at age eighteen he moved to the United States and began to prepare for priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. After training in Emmitsburg, Maryland; Rome; and Innsbruck; he was ordained in 1912 as a priest for the archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.

One main problem in Omaha that Father Flanagan found and chose to address personally; derelict boys. Many of these boys had no mothers, no fathers, and no homes. They had no one to love them or teach them right from wrong. Virtually all had dropped out of public school. They became known in the city for breaking store windows, being petty thieves often stealing food), and starting street fights.

One day a grocer noted to Flanagan, "These boys should be arrested. They need to be taken away."

Looking beyond their vandalism Father Flanagan saw hungry faces and ragged clothes. He responded, "What they need is a home. They need someone to love them."

The grocer asked, "But who would take them in?"
He replied, "Maybe I will." And he did.

Father Flanagan borrowed a few dollars to rent an old house and then asked those in the immediate neighborhood to give him furniture, dishes, and bedding to furnish it and help fix it up. He invited five boys to move in with him, offering them a place to eat, sleep, play and pray. Soon these boys were laughing, learning, and attending church regularly. The neighbors were impressed. More and more boys began coming to his door, eager to for the normalcy of life he offered them.  Father Flanagan finally concluded, "The boys need a town of their own."

In 1922, Father Flanagan found a farm for sale eleven miles outside Omaha, and again he asked friends and neighbors to help with the purchase price and then to help build a town.  They built streets, sidewalks, houses, shops, a church, and a post office.  One large dining room was built as a place for the boys to eat, and a pool was constructed to give them a place to swim.  Boys from across the nation began to arrive.  One day a boy who could not walk arrived in Boy's Town, and Father Flanagan asked one of the older boys to carry him to his room. The big boy hoisted the newcomer onto his back as Father Flanagan asked, "He's not too heavy, is he?"

The older body smiled and said, "He ain't heavy, Father. He's my brother!" The statement became the hallmark of Boys' Town. (song: He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother) The action was immortalized in bronze, and the statement became a well-known quote across the nation.

Father Flanagan insisted that the entire 'town' be devoted to developing character in homeless boys by giving them religious and social education, as well as vocational training. The institution was such a success that Father Flanagan became a sought-out authority on the training and reclamation of boys who had become juvenile delinquents. After World War II he served as a consultant to the United States government in setting up youth programs in Japan and Korea. He died while on a similar mission in Europe.

When a child dies we look for ways to face the future, because imagining a future with out them is so difficult. Choosing to do, give or help others in some small way allows us to create something positive with all that love.... love that will never go away. -Marsha

Additional Articles:
Attitude Matters- discussion about sending loving thoughts to our children
JOY? What Joy? My Three Letter Word is...WHY? - excerpt from book, A Grief Like No Other

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