April 27, 2007

Face of the Wolf

This hard to read but oh so sweet story is from a passionate man-maker, Colin Irish. He shares one brief moment on a rite of passage weekend run by men like Colin for boys. The story gives us all a peek into the work his group is doing initiating boys into manhood. On reading it, you'll begin to understand why, once exposed to this work, boy’s and men’s lives are changed for ever.


He stood in front of me shaking slightly. I noticed the little tremors in his hands. He had arrived the night before wearing impressive black make-up, but the events of the day had wiped most of it off his face. Some of it was on the sleeve of his gray hoody. He tried to keep his face blank. I could tell it was taking a lot of effort. He looked nothing like the men I'd seen come to this kind of circle before. However, he was standing up in front of everyone, as brave as any one of those men. And he was 14 years old.

"What's your new initiation name?" I asked. "Wolf," he answered. I nodded. "It fits.” I saw his mouth try to curve into a smile, but he put the blank face back on in an instant. He was good at that – a valuable survival skill for his life most likely. "Wolf, tell me your story.” He took his time getting started. Everyone waited as if silently telling him that he was important. I could tell it had been a long time since he'd gotten a message like that. He told his story - his father gone, his mother checked out, and his own attempts to stop the pain. It's a story more common than I am comfortable with, which is why I was standing here with him. He worked his way through it and got to the end. I helped some, but not very much. As the mask melted away, all of his struggles were right there just under the surface. There was no need to dig.

"That's really clear, Wolf. I get why you're sad and angry. It took lots of courage to tell that story and it takes lots of courage to live it." "Yeah," he said as he wiped his eyes. The last of the make-up smeared over his face giving him a truly wolf-like visage. "Is there anyone here that would like to bless Wolf's courage?” Everyone came forward. The process took 5 minutes, but the honoring and blessing lasted for 25 minutes.

Working with boys is different than working with men. For the boys, the traumas of youth are happening now. There hasn't been enough time to hide them beneath layers of denial and unconsciousness. Just observe how most teens dress and you can see it all displayed on the surface. Also, the magnitude of a small course correction has much more impact for an adolescent than for a man. I wonder what would have been different for me if I had a circle of men and peers hear my true story...and then bless me for who I am. What would be different for you right now, if a circle of men had stood with you back then?

Threshold Passages, Inc. (TPI) needs men like you who are willing to stand in the circle with boys - men willing to honor and bless.

Reclaiming Your Teenage Fire - Mentor Training - June 8-9, 2007
Boy's Rites of Passage Adventure Weekend (RPAW) - August 9-12, 2007

Collin Irish
TPI RPAW Coordinator
Denver, Colorado

April 22, 2007


I rarely post twice in a week, but I've been stewing about another lost, young male shooter, the student from Virginia Tech. I'm still in shock. The more I take man-making seriously, the more I let myself actually feel the sadness and hurt from these too-frequent experiences. Each time this happens it also increases the responsibility I feel for the next lost boy I encounter, and that is a good thing. But that is not what this post is about.

Today I got a very helpful email from Antonello Vanni, a man-maker in Italy. He said, I think we should remember Professor Liviu Librescu because he's an example young people have to look at.

Antonello is right. In an age where you have to dig deep to find real public heroes . . . people of integrity, solid values, courage, compassion, and visibility in the world, Professor Librescu does stand out and should be held up for emulation. He was a brilliant, 76 year old, concentration camp survivor and husband and father, with everything to live for. Yet he didn't hesitate a minute to throw his body in front of the shooter as he attempted to enter his classroom to kill his students. His action saved many lives but cost him his own.

I have encountered many very good men (and women) engaged in man-making work. Indeed, they are my heroes and sheroes. But when someone like Professor Librescu shows up on the national media, it gives us all an opportunity to name his act and person heroic, and point that out to the young people around us.

Who are your national heroes? Whose leadership gives you hope? Could you so quickly choose to be heroic as Professor Librescu did in saving his student's lives?

Good questions to keep in mind as makers of men.

April 20, 2007

A Wish for the Young

An ally and man-maker in Capetown, South Africa, sent along this wonderful statement titled, We Wish the Young to Outdo Us. It's taken from a book written in 1921 with the title, The Home Kindergarten Manual.

In the language of that period it's speaks an ancient and clear truth about our hopes and dreams for all our children. It is also the wish that is at the heart of the Man-Making book.

We Wish the Young to Outdo Us

What do we wish that they should be?

If forced to reason about it, we say they ought to be what we have found by experience it is prudent and wise to be; and they ought to go one stage beyond the stage we have gone.

But we cannot conduct them beyond the stage we have reached. We can only point and say, “Here are the boundaries which we have reached; beyond is an undiscovered country; go out and discover it. We can furnish you with a few probabilities; we can supply you with a few tendencies; we can say to you that we cannot go with you; we can say to you that that we think wisdom points in this direction; but we cannot guide you; we must part with you at the door; and bid you Godspeed. But we want you to go on; we do not want you to stop where we stopped.”