Just for Dads ~ August 2022

by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services

The thought of being stuck or trapped in a situation has caused me great consternation and distress for as long as I can remember. If class rankings in high school were based on “least likely to sit still, not talk, and concentrate on task at hand,” I would have been valedictorian.

I recently read the book Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton, about the sailors of the Belgica being trapped in Antarctic water during the winter of 1898. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship in frozen waters in complete darkness with a large group of sailors? Every member of the crew suffered, multiple men died, and many who survived never regained their mental health. The environment of an Antarctic winter is filled with cold, dark, storms, and constant agitation, and the atmosphere for those on the ship matched.

Vitolda Klein | Unsplash

In my years of working with families, the feelings of being stuck and hopelessness can lead to devastating results. In my mind, I see parallels between what caused severe mental adversity on the ship and some of the same challenges families face today.

In the book:

1. There was darkness, a complete absence of light.

Darkness can be overwhelming to our systems and can zap our energy. The darkness can make the cold weather feel even more severe.

2. There was a lack of healthy, needed nutrients.

In the book, the crew started to break down both mentally and physically. They developed scurvy. They learned that those who ate raw seal did better, but many still refused to eat the meat because of its taste.

3. There was total boredom and lack of purpose.

There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Boredom and a lack of purpose can be deadly. Those who ventured away from the ship faced the possibility of being lost forever due to disillusion or mirage.

In our families:

1. We need the sunlight and to be outdoors. We have become sedentary people who are indoors way too much. God is a Creator, and his creation is meant for our enjoyment and health.

2. We need to eat healthfully, watch our diets, and talk with doctors or nutritionists to make sure what we take in provides life. We must provide our households healthful options and teach our families the importance of healthy food choices. We must understand some of the answers to our physical and mental health can be improved by what we eat and drink.

3. We must be proactive in addressing boredom and help our to children understand their purposes. We are losing the ability to invent fun and engage in meaningful conversations because we are allowing devices such as smartphones trap us into a world of idleness.

If the environment of your house is full of light, life, and purpose, then the inhabitants will be as well.

Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at ward@vfsdads.com.

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