The Duncan Banner

December 9, 2012

A message of help for kids

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — John Croyle doesn’t pretend to be a saint. He isn’t even a preacher. But he can put life in perspective with a few raw, cold words that can turn your stomach before making you appreciate the simple things often taken for granted.  

“Think you’ve had a bad day,” he asks. “I know a 12-year -old girl who was raped by her father as her mother held her down,” he said, a chill of disbelief hitting listeners, a hush silencing even the gasps of alarm.  

“That’s a bad day.”  Though horrific, it is only one of the many stories Croyle can share.  Once, he was asked to meet a friend at an Alabama truck stop. The mission was to pick up two children, a boy 11, a girl 10. He entered the building, saw his friend, the two young children, their mother and her sister.   “You the man who gives kids a second chance?” the mother asked. When he said yes, she added, “Here, take them.”  Can you imagine that? Can you comprehend any circumstances that would allow you to give your children away, give them away to a total stranger?  

The story sickens.  

Croyle turned his attention to the children.

They were expressionless, staring straight ahead into the darkness of another dim day. As he met them, the mother told about the boy’s three-week trip to Disney World “with some friends”. The girl didn’t go, but she had been visiting “friends” of her own every other week.  The brutal translation. The “friends” were pedophiles. The mother had been selling her children for the pleasure of others. Even worse, the emotionally battered children assumed Croyle was simply next in line. If that is not disgusting enough to make you gag or cause you to cry, you might consider checking your own pulse.

Yet Croyle, who chose to forgo a pro football career after playing on Alabama’s 1973 national championship team and to instead reach out to orphans and abused, neglected, homeless children through the Big Oak Ranch, sees and lives with those problems daily.  

Many have happy endings.  While no automatic solutions exist to those human tragedies, he is quick to promise better days by telling each he loves them, he won’t lie to them, he will stick with them until they are grown and he will set boundaries that cannot be crossed.  Then he makes certain none of those promises are broken. It is a legitimate feel good story, one with turnaround episodes that warm your heart.

And Croyle, the rangy, earthy, plain speaking ex-defensive end, enjoys talking about the smiles, the hugs and the now happier times for his kids. His focus is also one of prevention, of awareness, of necessary change.   Rather than shock you with more horror stories, he’d rather challenge listeners — especially dads — to get and stay involved before it’s too late.  

He minces few words, holds back little emotion, grabs your attention and doesn’t particularly care if he hurts your feelings. His message is stern, sincere and important.

Life isn’t easy.

Daddies must make a difference.

Old-time values should still be important. He favors manners and discipline without apology. He stresses “yes sir” and “no sir“ responses. He supports “time out” and restrictions. And he isn’t shy about using a paddle if all else fails.  He says raising kids is not a popularity contest; it’s what mommies and daddies do and the emphasis should be on being respected more than being liked.

Being involved in what children do is critical, he continues. Letting kids watch whatever is on television is not okay.

“There are some things your six-year-old son doesn’t need to be watching,” he explains.

“There are things your 12-year-old daughter is seeing at the movies that she doesn’t need to be seeing. And the real men I know are the ones who say no, even if their kids’ friends are doing it.”  

Croyle says dads need to be the spiritual leader of their homes, they need to lead by example, they need to show their kids what a real man is, what a real father is and what a good husband, He said most wives would give up their monetary wealth, their fancy cars and their homes to live with a godly man. He says parents should watch what they say and how they say it, they should be aware of whom the friends of their children are and they should make time for their own kids.  

He reinforces his words with statements like “85 percent of a young person’s character, morals and values are determined by age 6,” that “a loser is a winner who didn’t get up,” that “methamphetamines are not killing our kids; (the decision of) choosing to use methamphetamines is killing our kids,” that God loves imperfection and is attracted to weakness, that God loves ignorance, but can’t stand arrogance.  

He says kids are screaming every day “Do you love me?”  John Croyle knows that because he lives it. He lives it every day. He sees the anxiety and fear. He feels the emotional bruises and physical hurt. He understands the barriers of mistrust, of loneliness and of confusion.  

He would like to change all of that. It’s why he does what he does, why he says what he says. It’s why he hopes his message will help others.

                                                                                           edarling@duncanbanner.com                                                                                                       (580) 255-5354, Ext. 130