April 30, 2009

Honor and Fruit Trees

The wave of impact from the April17-19, 2009 Tucson Boys to Men Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend are still reverberating. I want to share two items that were passed among the staff after the weekend . . . along with many expressions of gratitude and joy.

The first is from the movie Rob Roy, and it's about honor. It is especially fitting given the lessons about life we were holding up for boys, and what they were witnessing in men's behavior that whole weekend:

Son: Father, will the MacGregor’s ever be kings again?
Rob Roy:All men with honor are kings - but not all kings have honor.
Son: What is honor?
Rob Roy: Honor is.. what no man can give ye, and no one can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself.
Son: Do women have it?
Rob Roy: Women are the heart of honor - and we cherish and protect it in them. You must never mistreat a woman, or malign a man. Or stand by and see another do so.
Son: How do you know if you have it?
Rob Roy: Never worry in the getting of it. It grows in ye and speaks to ye. All you need to do is listen."

The next was sent by the man who was the weekend's storyteller. It's a beautiful reflection of the attitude to take into man-making work of any kind:

Hazrat Inayat Khan once said that every thought, every impulse, and every word that is spoken is like a seed that falls into the soil of life and takes root. Thus, every expression of love and every act of service will someday grow into a tree and bear fruit. It is our goal to arrive at that state of heart and mind where our every word, thought, and action is blended with love and contains the capacity to bear fruit. Does this mean fruit for oneself? Trees do not bear fruit for themselves; their fruit is an offering that benefits others. Living for the benefit of others through love and service is the fruit of life.

Our storyteller went on to say, "I feel blessed to have done this ‘seed planting’ with all of you. You touched my heart many ways and many times. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to plant seeds with you."

April 24, 2009

Boys to Men Initiation Weekend

You'll just have to forgive a few more than usual posts this month. You see I've been working with a band of brothers, 27 very solid man-makers, to put on a weekend long Rite of Passage experience for 17 adolescent males.

We had to find a location in the Arizona outback, identify and qualify the boys, and call the men to action. There was a small mountain of logistics, raising some money, deciding on the different experiences for the boys, and getting clear about what our messages about manhood we're going to be. To be sure, Spirit was present, and the gifts of inspiration, materials, location, and all the "right" men unfolded before us.

Once the weekend was launched, our version of a very ancient theater unfolded. The boys were delivered onto sacred masculine ground in the dark of the night. They were relieved of the "stuff" of the outside world and provided with enough clothing and essentials for the weekend. To the sounds of drums, the wild-eyed sons of mankind were introduced into our transformational and sacred masculine container.

For the rest of that night and for the next two days, the initiates were asked powerful questions, faced physically and emotionally challenging experiences, sang songs of strength and unity, played wild but meaning-filled games, spoke their truth to men, and faced the purifying heat of the final rituals.

When it was over, as is always the case, the boys were bonded by their common ordeal and the truths shared. They knew they had been witnessed and powerfully blessed by men. They knew they now had strong male allies and, going forward, the world would be less frightening. As new but intentional Journeymen, they stood stronger in their new selves and on the uncomfortable middle-ground between boyhood and manhood.

The men to were transformed. Their hearts had been captured by the boys and softened by tears of joy and old pain released. Men understood, at their core, the rightness of this work for them, and their place in the natural male order was made more clear. As is always the case, stronger and more open men, with wet eyes, sent the boys off in a powerful and silent goodbye at weekend's end.

The weekend was just the begining really. The Tucson group will be doing monthly group mentoring activities with their new Journeymen brothers. But for now, I and I suspect many of the males that attended, it's time to rest. A time tofigure out how to pull all these new feelings, experiences, and friends into my notions of who I am and my life. This is a very nice problem to have.

In this photo are good and "weight bearing" men, doing what ever it takes for a boys to men weekend to work.

I was saluting them in the photo and I again salute all man-makers where ever you are. This is a high and holy calling and there is much work left to do.

If you or your community is called to this work, send me a message.

April 21, 2009

Kids and Media Addiciton

Here's some data that should be a wake up call:
  • By the time a child is eighteen years old, he or she will witness on television (with average viewing time) 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders (Huston, et al, 1992).

  • Children, ages 8 to 18, spend more time (44.5 hours per week - 6 1/2 hours daily) in front of computer, television, and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005).

This is just a small taste of what you can learn on the website of the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF). They say that at a time in their lives when adolescents should be developing life-sustaining patterns of self-discipline, the ability to delay gratification, perseverance, imagination, and respect, too much exposure to various forms of media results in the adoption the values of more, easy, fast, fun, violence and disrespect. In addition, there is a ton of evidence that demonstrates that kids who watch significant amounts of television and movie violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, attitudes and values.

The National Institute on Media and the Family has an initiative they call Through-U - Families Become MediaWise, which offers materials, training kits, suggestions for non-media activities, research... and more for those who want to explore these ideas for groups of children or in a family setting. I think this would be especially powerful for a group of young males.

On the website of an organization called TrashYour TV!, there's a 20 question assessment to test a teen's degree of "media addiction." Their assessment is enlightening for ALL of us and it's another organization with a lot to say about the role of TV, video games, and computers in kids lives.

If you have had any experience with these kinds of programs, either formal or the policies in your own home, please tell us about it in the comments section of this post. We do need an army of motivated adults to set good examples and help kids become aware of the world of options that exist when they walk away from a screen.

April 12, 2009

Smart Moves Night - Heros

My friend, personal hero, and star man-maker, Mustafa Mahdi, is the Founder/Director of The Rising Son, Inc., Young Men's Development Center in Jonesboro, Georgia. He and his band of dedicated mentors are constantly coming up with ways to entertain, guide, and inspire the young males in their care. Here is his description of one of their programs called Smart Moves Night.

I wanted to update you on activities at The Rising Son. Our "Smart Moves" Friday Night Chess and Mentoring Program has been a great success. Each Friday from 7-10pm for the past three weeks we have had between 10 and 20 boys show up at our center to learn to play chess. As the name suggests, "Smart Moves" is about making good choices in life. Each Friday night the Mentors spend the first hour discussing how the boys are doing in school and at home. Most of our members don't have a father in the home, so the Mentor assumes many of the responsibilities of the absent father...encouraging the boy to respect his mother, to do his best at school and to complete his chores at home.

Each boy also completes a Grade Level Based Assessment to determine where he is academically and if tutoring is needed. We also have group discussions on a variety of topics including Career Planning, Goal Setting, Conflict Resolution, Manhood, Fatherhood, Domestic Violence Prevention, Pollution/Conservation, Global Warming, etc.

The second hour is dedicated to teaching each boy to play Chess. We knew that many of our boys were spending hours playing video games that overstimulate aggressive behavior, promote competitiveness and shorten attention spans. We chose chess because it teaches analytical skills, strategy, patience, and gives our boys the ability to focus for extended periods of time . . . skills that are readily transferable to the classroom and life. We have both beginners and intermediate players. Our goal is to eventually establish a traveling Chess Team to compete with other organizations. The boys play chess with both peers and Mentors.

The intangible benefit for me has been observing the boys as they teach each other to play the game, watching them display sportsmanship, and the wonderful interaction between men and boys.

The Rising Son is a great model for men in communities everywhere. I hope you find their work as inspirational as I do. Check out The Rising Son website for more information and their whole story.

AND BY THE WAY . . . Mustafa is operating on a shoestring budget. He informed me that, . . . our old 1985 Ford Van's transmission has finally broken down. I'll be leaving shortly to try to find a mechanic who will tell us if it can be repaired. Our challenge as always is the money to pay for repairs. Summer Day Camp begins in less than 8-weeks and we desperately need our van to pick-up our After-School Program members for the remainder of the school year . . .

If you are looking to donate to a good cause, a little cash, or even a donated van would be put to VERY good use by this group. You can see their Wish List at this link, or contact Mustafa at mfmahdi@yahoo.com, or at (678) 933-9677.

April 5, 2009

The Making of a Hero

Inside every boy is a hero. It's a transformational moment when a man, a group of men men, or the other people around a boy see that piece of him . . . and then name it with a blessing. I challenge you to find something wonderful about the next adolescent male that crosses your path. See it, and then acknowledge it with a positive statement. Boys are use to being disciplined by men so his first reaction might be one of shock. Once that passes, watch for the amazing reaction in the young guy, and then notice what happens in you when he smiles.

If you can think of an example of a time you were on the receiving end of this kind of blessing, send it along or post it in the comments section. It will make us all happy, even if it's not our story.

I know this video has been around a while, but it's a wonderful example of hero making. Makes my eyes wet.

If the video doesn't play, visit this link to see it.