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"Small is Huge"
The story of Butch O'Hare
and of Emmaus Ministries

John Green

[COMMENT: This is an email newsletter from another "Emmaus Ministries" in Chicago.  They are an astonishing group dedicated to camping out just a few yards from the gates of hell to rescue those who wander their way.  E. Fox ]

emmaus@streets.org        www.streets.org      (773) 334-6063

Dear Earle,

“Why do you work with male prostitutes?”

Someone asks me this question almost every time I talk about our work. The easy answer is that I know this is what God wants me to do.

The difficult answer has to do with sacrifice and potential.

To illustrate what I mean, I’d like to share a story that begins in the world of organized crime. Chicago mobsters are not usually known for their sacrificial ways. But there was one…

“Artful Eddie” started out as a small-time lawyer in St. Louis. In 1909, he entered into a partnership with an inventor who created a mechanical rabbit for use at dog tracks. As dog racing was still in its early years, this invention caught on quickly. In 1927 the inventor died, and Artful Eddie used his cunning legal skills to cheat the inventor’s wife out of the patent rights. He gained total control over the mechanical rabbit.

Pockets bursting with money, he dumped his wife, and took his three kids, including his son, Butch, to Chicago. Like everyone who met the fast talking young lawyer, Al Capone took an immediate liking to Eddie and set him up at a Chicago dog track.

Dog racing was illegal in Illinois, but by tying up the courts with legal challenges for years, Eddie kept the park open. He didn’t stop there, though. He used his talents to expand the Capone empire into other dog tracks around the country, and into tax-dodging real estate deals, sham corporations, and political bribes.

While failing as an upstanding citizen, Artful Eddie seemed to be a decent father. As Butch grew, Eddie realized that the life of crime he was living would severely limit his son’s chance for something better. So, he made a fateful decision – he would turn Al Capone over to the law.

At the trial, a cop pulled Eddie aside and asked him what compelled him to turn on Capone. Eddie simply said, “I wanted to give my son a chance.”

Capone may have been locked away for good, but the mob did not forget.

A couple of years later, as Artful Eddie pulled up to the corner of Ogden and Rockwell in Chicago, two shotgun blasts ended his life. Inside his coat pocket was found a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from the newspaper, which read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power, To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour.

Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

Because of his father’s sacrifice and the clearing of his family’s name, Butch was able to gain entrance to the US Navel Academy. He graduated with honors and became a naval pilot.

When war was declared with Japan, Butch found himself flying a single-engine Grumman F4F Hellcat fighter over the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. One day on mission, Butch and his wingman in another Hellcat spotted nine Japanese twin-engine bombers zeroing in on the aircraft carrier Lexington. They formed up to attack, but the second Hellcat’s weapons jammed – leaving only Butch between the airborne attackers and the 2,100 men of the USS Lexington.

Butch attacked the greater enemy force head-on, alone, flying straight into their formation, with guns blazing. One by one, he picked off the enemy bombers, downing five of the original nine attackers. Three more were shot down by Lexington pilots who were able to take off because of Butch’s heroic engagement. The last Japanese bomber, badly damaged in the shootout with Butch, crashed at sea miles away.

Butch’s heroism was quickly recognized. He became the first naval aviator of World War II to be personally awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt, who called his performance “one of the most daring, if not THE most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation.” Several years later, Butch’s Hellcat was shot down and he was lost at sea.

There is hardly a day or week that goes by that the people of Chicago, and probably the nation, don’t say, hear or visit his namesake. Because after the war, the citizens of Chicago named their new airport after their fallen son, Butch O’Hare.

I love that story.

I read it to some of the guys in our Ministry Center the other day and was greeted with a chorus of “No way!” I don’t know what they found more unbelievable: that a father would make such a sacrifice for his son, or that some one with a background like Butch’s could turn out to be such a hero.

Both of those observations lead me back to the reasons why I do this work.

Many of the guys who come to Emmaus have never met their fathers, let alone have any significant relationship with them. It’s hard to describe the loss and damage that is done in a young boy’s life when his father is absent. When we talk with our guys about what life was like for them growing up, they almost always dance around this father-wound. You can see it in their eyes or hear it in the words they mumble when we do something as simple as watch a movie depicting a father interacting with his son. As I raise my three sons, Jonathan, Daniel, and Peter, my work at Emmaus becomes harder. Not because of time pressures, and not because I’m concerned about raising kids in the city. It has gotten harder, in part, because I realize how important I am to my sons and how much our father-less guys have lost.

Can anything possibly heal that father-wound?

Yes. But it’s not a program, a service, an outreach method, or a well equipped drop-in center. It’s a deep understanding that there is a Father who sacrificed all for them, even to the point of death. It’s the presence of friends who help them live in the light of this amazing reality, and live up to their potential as fathers, friends, and men of faith.

It’s sacrifice and potential. It’s what Easter is all about and it’s what Emmaus is all about, too.

In His Grip,

John Green

P.S. Our annual bike ride fundraiser is fast approaching. You can ride or volunteer on Saturday, June 10th at beautiful LaSalle Manor. For more information on the Endurance Ride, check out www.streets.org or call 773-334-6063.

Emmaus Ministries
921 W Wilson Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60640

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