March 12, 2009

Perfect Mentoring Opportunities

I often hear from men who were severely under-fathered or who missed any qualitative male mentoring growing up. It's my story too. In fact, not having been mentored is one of the common barriers that keep men from stepping into their man-making potential because they think they don't know how. It's a part of the reason that today we have what I term an epidemic of under-male-nourished boys in the world.

I received the following story from Steve S., a Man-Making Blog subscriber, describing both heart breaking and a heart swelling stories of boy mentoring. I am certain they will kick up some historical emotional dust for you.

I have two memories I want to share with you that are totally divergent but mirror the craziness I grew up with. They have to do with how important recognition is to a boy and what motivates a boy to achieve self-reliance.

When I was a boy I was in the Cub and then the Boy Scouts. In scouting a boy has many passages when he moves from one level to the next. Sadly, it was rare for me to have my dad, or anyone from my family show up to see it. And I don’t recall my friends’ dads being there either; much less extended family or male neighbors. I had worked hard to win those merit badges and the advancement for life skills they represented, and I so badly wanted my dad, or someone, there to see it.

Instead, when I’d come home from the award meeting waving my new badge shouting “Hey dad, I’m a Wolf!,” all I ever got was “that’s nice.” It’s a wonder that I ever wanted to keep pushing ahead? I don’t think dad ever knew any of my feelings around this, and certainly none of the other men in my family ever knew what I had accomplished so they could join me in my joy. A sad collection of missed opportunities all around.

Just so you don’t think it was all bad, once while camping with my family in Colorado…when I decided I was ready…I went out to climb a mountain all by myself. I brought a canteen, some food, a sheath knife, a pole and an old tee-shirt to use as a flag. Dad said he would keep his binoculars trained on the mountain top and when he saw the flag go up he would put wet boughs on the campfire to celebrate my accomplishment, and important to me, let everyone in the campground know I had done it.
Seeing the cloud of white smoke from that not very high mountain top, within minutes of the flag going up filled me with pride. When I came down, people I did not even know gave me ‘atta-boy’s! Around that same campfire that night dad made me recount in detail my climb and how it felt. I cherish that memory now!

From the eyes (and heart) of a young boy, the attentions of his father or an older man, delivered at the right moment, can be life changing.

Keep up the good work Earl, and thanks for allowing me to think, feel, and reflect.


If this post helped you to "think, feel, and reflect," consider commenting on this post. We'd all like to hear your story.


  1. I, too, grew up in scouting. When I was in the Cub Scouts, my mom was our den leader and my dad helped me build my Pinewood Derby cars. He was a teacher and had access to the high school shop with all of the coolest power tools an elementary school boy could imagine. Consequently, I was introduced to woodworking at an early age. We designed, sawed, sanded, glued, painted and raced an award-winning car two of the three years I (we) competed. They were cherished times I'll always remember. Now, 45 years later, I still love being in a shop.

  2. Dakota7:37 PM

    I am writing because I have a (mentoring) resource that has been and is being squandered. I work in a treatment center where there are a whole lot of men who want to mentor but because most of them have criminal histories they can't make that happen. We in recovery know that giving back is a part of the solution to our recovery and the fact that there are these good strong men in recovery who want to give back (mostly African American) to a community where there exists a serious depletion of positive roll models is really a mess.

    I have brought this to the attention of our program director and supervisors, but people are busy with day to day matters it doesn't go anywhere. I am studying to take a test to be licensed as a therapist and have been busy going to school to get this far and really can't take this on either. If anyone has some ideas on how this win/win situation can manifest I am willing to hear, but mostly I wish someone would spearhead this idea and make it happen where ever it can. I would bet that there is even grant money that could be used to make this happen. I can imagine that men who are recovering from drugs and alcohol is a great untapped resource in the struggle to provide mentors.

    Thanks for considering this matter.
    Dakota Baker MA LADC


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