The tragic event that took place in Cleveland Easter Sunday haunts me in that I know all too well the importance of a father and patriarch in the family.
Steve Stephens a 37-year-old troubled young man saddled with gambling debts and grieving over the loss of a longtime girlfriend took it upon himself to unleash his personal pain from poor decisions on a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. That patriarch a Mr. Robert Godwin, Sr. a 74-year-old retiree who after having Easter Dinner with his family was engaged in his sometimes hobby of picking up discarded aluminum cans was approached by Stephens who asked him if he knew his girlfriend Joy Lane. He then told Mr. Godwin to repeat her name and with coldness of heart shot Mr. Godwin at point blank range while telling him it was because of his estranged girlfriend. Stephens recorded the whole gruesome event and played it on Facebook Live stating as he pulled up in his car that he was going to “kill this old guy.”
As the nationwide manhunt ensued, it occurred to me that while members of both Mr. Godwin and Stephen’s family were being interviewed by media. No mention had been made of Stephens’ father. They interviewed his mother Maggie Green who said Stephens had visited her prior and said goodbye and this would be the last time she would see him. She told the press that she told him not “to go and do anything stupid.”
As I pondered on the horrid event, I watched how Mr. Godwin’s family rallied together when they heard the news. I watched as a local Fox affiliate interviewed one family member after another, his son Robert, Jr. his daughter Debbie, even his grandchildren and all expressed the love they had for their patriarch. Mr. Godwin had 9 children, 14 grandchildren and multiple great-grandchildren. It was obvious they all loved him deeply and it was evident in the pain in their faces and voices that his death was a tragic loss.
Now, contrast that with the murderer Steve Stephens. No doubt a loss to his family as well, including his estranged girlfriend who said he was good to her children. Also, his Mother, friends and associates expressed their sadness at his heinous act and eventual suicide after a brief chase by police once they located his whereabouts.
I kept asking myself, where was his father? Why hadn’t he been interviewed? Why hadn’t he called out through the media for his son to surrender? I scoured the web looking for any reference to his dad being in his life, but I could find nothing.
Stephens was obviously a troubled young man. Mounting gambling debts, a bankruptcy filed, and the breakup of the relationship with his longtime girlfriend was, no doubt, troubling him. He mentioned in his facebook ramblings that even his mother didn’t care. After seeing numerous pictures of him in media, I wondered how a grown man wears arched eyebrows.
I sense that core in Stephens issues was his inability to navigate the rougher patches in life or what I call using critical thinking. I was taught critical thinking by my father. He taught me how to stand firm during difficult circumstances and “calm down and think things through son” as he would put it to me whenever I was distressed by the tribulations of life. My father also taught me by example. I watched him do that “man thing” day in day and out during my formative years.
I remember when in my 30’s and a budding entrepreneur I had fallen in love with a beautiful young lady who seemed to adore me. But of late our relationship had gotten rocky and she eventually broke up with me. Distraught I asked my father, “Dad do you think she loved me?” He put his arm around my shoulder, chuckled and told me, “Yeah, I think she loved you son. She just didn’t love the fact you didn’t have any money anymore.” You see, our business had fallen on hard times, and my business partner and I had to tighten our belts. So I could no longer afford to take her to dinner at fancy restaurants and buy her nice things. My dad then gave me a big hug and told me I would hurt for a little bit but I would be alright. He was right, I got over the hurt and moved on with my young life and learned that no matter how bad I felt or how I had been wronged. This too would pass. He taught me to learn from my mistakes and persevere. And that is the key to a successful life.
My dad coached me through many rough patches in life and still coaches me today. One of his favorite sayings is, “You have bigger fish to fry, son. Don’t sweat the small stuff.” That was/is his way of saying stay focused on your goals. His keys to success are very simple and what I live by today: 1. Faith in God 2. Stay focused on your goals. 3. Don’t sweat the small stuff (because you have bigger fish to fry).
If I was Stephens father I would have been shouting from the rooftops and on every channel on TV, “Son turn yourself in. You have bigger fish to fry.” Better yet, If I had been Stephens’ father, he would have never committed this heinous crime in the first place because I would have taught him critical thinking from the time he was a little boy. I would have taught him my dad’s 3 keys to success.
Prayers for both the Godwin and Stephens family for strength, healing and forgiveness. This tragic event is the byproduct of the fatherless generation.