December 30, 2010

Annual Survey Fix and Purfeckshunism

Some of you have reported a problem with the annual survey from the last blog post not appearing in your subscription email. Sorry. I don't know why, but I really appreciate the heads up.

This link should take you directly to the survey form online. Don't forget to hit "Submit" at the end.

Now if this doesn't work, you can always go to the post on the Man-Making Blog and fill it in there. Can you tell I REALLY want your feedback?

Nice to be able to leave some of my perfectionism behind in 2010.

Blessings for 2011!


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The Annual Man-Making Blog Survey

Wow, that year went fast! At the end of year seven of publishing the Man-Making blog, we are holding steady around 500 subscribers with a very low unsubscribe rate. I guess that means you still like what I'm putting out.

As the new year approaches, I want to sharpen my content focus and see if there are other types of material I could add to make the blog even more interesting or useful to you. With that in mind, I'd appreciate it very much if you would take the very short, 5 question survey just below.

Enter your responses and then hit the "submit" button on the bottom of the survey to send the data along.

Anything you're willing to offer by way of comments or suggestions will be very much appreciated.

Thanks for your time, support, feedback . . . and most importantly, thanks for your interest in man-making.

Earl Hipp

If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-5 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

December 21, 2010

Eyeballs - e-Book - Gifts - and a Great Year

This will be the last post of 2010. It's been a great year. With almost 500 subscribers and growing, that's a lot of eyeballs for my 58 posts. THANK YOU! I'm a very grateful blogger because that means there are a lot of you out there who care about this topic, and just possibly are or are considering making a difference for men and boys.

One of my recent victories was turning my Man-Making book digital. The PDF e-book version of it has just come available. This means that for those of you across an ocean, you can now have a copy in a blink of an eye. While it will soon be available at Amazon and other mainstream book stores, it is currently found at WOWIO. You can always get the print-book version at Amazon, or contact me and I'll hook you up with a great price on either!

I'll be back soon with my annual reader survey. If not in late December, early January for sure. In the past I have learned a lot from all of you and made some major changes to the blog. Without indulging in shame generating, end of the year commitments, next year it would be fun to:
  • have some posts with  Podcasts, audio interviews of people working in this field (do you want to be interviewed?),
  • possibly add a chat button to this site so we could connect in real time (I'm at the keyboard a lot anyway),
  • maybe even offer a Webinar where a bunch of us might gather online and kick some ideas around about a specific man-making topic,
  • Your suggestions?
Who knows what the new year will bring, but it is going to be full of opportunity.

So thank you for reading this blog, for your leads to resources, and for the gifts of your time and attention. You are much appreciated.

May your holiday season be safe, contain some joy, moments of serenity, times of loving and feeling loved, and lots of gratitude for the many gifts already in our lives.

See you back here in January.

Earl Hipp

If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

December 16, 2010

Aboriginal Elder in Norway

My brother in mission, Eivind Figenschau Skjellum in Norway, runs a great site called Masculinity Movies. I like his tag line: Where boys study films to become men. I have profiled him and his site previously in this blog and really recommend a visit. But that is not what this post is about.

Aboriginal Rites of Passage

Eivind recently had a chance to interview Australian elder, Bob Randall. Mr. Randall, affectionately known by many as "Uncle Bob," is a Yankunytjatjara Elder and a traditional owner of Uluru, or Ayer's Rock in Australia. Bob is one of the Stolen Generation of the Aboriginal people, taken from his family at the age of seven. Throughout his life, he has worked as a teacher and leader for Aboriginal land rights, education, community development and cultural awareness. To learn more about Elder Randall, check out his page on the Global Oneness Project site. On that page you can also hear a clip of him singing "Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)," which has become an anthem for the Aboriginal people.

In the video clip below, Eivind is talking with Elder Randall about what Rite of Passage for boys looks like in Aboriginal cultures. What I like so much is the fierceness the initiating Uncles and Elders put into this work. I think you'll find the cultural differences to be quite profound. Listening to this conversation did invite me to take my commitment to man-making more seriously. I'd be interested in your reaction (as a comment to this post).

If the video isn't visible, you can see it at this link.

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December 9, 2010

Grandfather Energy Meets Elder Hunger

At 66, I'm still a little surprised when I notice young males hovering around me. Sometimes it's questions, opinions, or showing me something they have or created. Sometimes it's simply proximity, hanging out in the same space. It's as though they don't really know what they want from me, but are pulled in my direction. I call this experience "Elder Hunger."

The truth is I'm very often late to notice them, and I don't immediately know how to (naturally) respond. Of course they want what I (still) long for, the witness and blessings of being seen and appreciated by older men. I'd say for the last five or so years of my life I've been growing into this Elder role/responsibility, seeing and blessing the young guys, and loving it.

When Paddy Murray, an Elder brother in mission from Bundanoon Australia, sent along an article about men from TOMNET ( Toowoomba Older Men's Network) working with high school kids, and getting a half-million Australian bucks to do it, it made perfect sense to me.

The article from Paddy talks about how these Elder men are helping high risk kids at the Toowoomba South State School with homework, building a school garden together, and sharing communal meals twice a week. Everyone involved loves it and the program has "blossomed" over a very short period of time.

In addition to all the wonderful benefits of what I might call "grandfather energy" meeting "elder hunger," there are some unique benefits for both the kids and the elders. By being together they have found an answer to one of the biggest challenges facing both some of the young and the old . . . isolation.

The article states: "When older men retire, they haven't got work and they feel as though they're not making a contribution, even though yet they have a lot of wisdom and experience. The younger kids feel isolated because many of them have dropped out of mainstream school and have been in trouble or come from difficult backgrounds.

"A lot of programs have been aimed at fixing kids up, and the missing link has been getting the community to take part in that solution. That's what's happening here and the kids feel like they belong to the community and that's what is important."

Getting older men involved with teen boys is a potent man-making strategy, and it doesn't have to cost a half-million to implement. Just get some old dudes together and invite them to "hang out" with some young guys and let the chemistry of Elder hunger and grandfather energy take over. It's actually a very ancient formula.

If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

November 30, 2010

Smoke Signals and Forgiving Fathers

The film, Smoke Signals, is one of many suggested by you, the subscribers, men working with young guys, and by people in my conference and workshop audiences. You can see the whole list of what I call guy films in the "Resources" section of the Man-Making website.

Smoke Signals tells the story of the relationship between a father, Arnold Joseph, and his son Victor. The story unfolds as Victor Joseph and another young man from the reservation, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, set off to collect Arnold Joseph's pick-up truck and ashes from Arizona after Arnold has died. Arnold had left the reservation years earlier, and Victor remembers him mostly as an alcoholic, occasionally abusive father, who drove off one day and never came back. The two men remember Victor’s father along the way, but their recollections are very different from each other. Victor learns many things about his father during his journey and, in the end, begins to understand, forgive, and grieve his loss. Smoke Signals is a funny yet poignant tale of friendship, discovery, and reconciliation.

A guy film like Smoke Signals can also be used as a tool when working with boys or men. One of my heroes, Bill Stankiewicz, is part of an organization called Boys to Men of Greater Washington. Bill uses Smoke Signals to help in his training of men who are going to be working with boys. The film's content has a lot of power to sensitize men to father-loss issues, questions, and buried emotional material related to fathers carried by so many men and boys. Below is an exchange from the final scene of the film. Bill uses this dialogue as a conversation starter in his training. I'm sure, after reading it, you'll understand why.

Grandmother: Tell me what has happened, Thomas.

Thomas: How do we forgive our fathers -- maybe in a dream?

Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often - or forever - when we were little?

Or maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage?

Or making us nervous because there didn't seem to be any rage at all?

Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?

Or for divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth -- or coldness?

Shall we forgive them for pushing -- or leaning?

For shutting doors or speaking through walls

Or never speaking

Or never being silent?

Do we forgive our fathers in our age or theirs?

Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it?

If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

After hearing these lines from the film, Bill says men begin to realize they have a choice to forgive their fathers, and if they do, they can begin to release any burdens they may be carrying. This is a very powerful way to use a guy film.

If you would like to connect with Bill around his use of Smoke Signals in training men to work with boys, he can be reached at

Check out the growing list of guy films on the Man-Making site, and if you have suggestions for additions or other ways to use these films, please contact me.

If you know of other helpful activities for working with men and boys and you're willing to share, please let me know.

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November 26, 2010

Circumcision and Manhood

Thanks to Don Skelton for directing my attention to an article in the Dispatch-Online, the blog of The Daily Dispatch paper out of East London, South Africa. I tells the story of the First white ‘initiate’ to become a Xhosa man. In the article, Mark Poulton, describes how he had always felt a powerful connection to the Xhosa people. He said that "I was detached from white people and I couldn’t relate to them. My friends were all Xhosas and, as I grew up, I started dating their women."

After years of being taunted for being an inkwenkwe – a Xhosa term for an uncircumcised boy – at the age of 30, Mark went through the Xhosa rite of circumcision. In the photo, a group of men are taking Mark, covered in a blanket, to the traditional surgeon (ingcibi) for the circumcision. The article reports, "A group of men watched with interest, awaiting the cry "ndiyindoda!" (I am a man) – marking the start of his journey to manhood."

In so many cultures, men are missing a clear line in the sand marking their successful transition from boyhood to manhood. One of my favorite questions to men from my research is, "What was THE moment in your life when you knew, for sure, you had become a "man?" So many men responded with confusion and ambiguity: I still don't know today if I'm a man; I'm not sure I am; and, No one ever said I was a man. For that reason, I can understand Mark Poulton's hunger for a community blessing honoring him as a "man."

I am not pretending to know anything more about the Xhosa people or their customs than I've read in this article. I also know that circumcision, as part of the rites marking a boy's crossing to manhood, are widely practiced in many cultures. While I'm not taking up the topic of painful rite of passage practices here, we all know it takes more than a grueling physical ordeal to become a man. That is why there is some serious concern in South Africa, and elsewhere, about how the practice of circumcision is currently being performed by non-trained practitioners.

In an article from the South African Medical Journal in August 2003, it was stated, "In fact, the barbarism perpetrated on today’s hapless youth has little in common with what the ancient rite was all about. The ritual was about preparing youngsters for the challenges of manhood in the rural and pastoral world in which they lived. Furthermore, it was performed by experienced operators and overseen by traditional sages who served as teachers and sources of wisdom to the youths. The traditional practice was much like modern military training: hard, but intended to nurture. Importantly, the community, through its traditional leaders and healers – not individual entrepreneurs – set up and supervised the circumcision schools." The article goes on to say, ". . . of late, the practice has degenerated into a money-making operation," and ". . . many of the so-called “circumcision schools” of today are fake, and deadly. They have very little to do with the traditional ethos and practice of this ancient ritual, and something must be done to stop the carnage."

It is a sad tale, too often reported, how boys or men, hungry to step into a full expression of manhood, are taking damage because they are without solid and community-based resources to help them transition into manhood in a positive and affirming way. For that reason, today I want to honor those men who are stepping up as man-makers, both as individuals and in man-making organizations around the planet. I have profiled many of them in this blog and they are deserving of recognition and praise. Those men using indigenous experience and history as a guide, and those groups of men who are developing their own locally relevant practices for safely moving boys through this important crossing, thank you for your courage, caring and action. We just need a lot more of you.

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November 19, 2010

The Raven Weekend for Boys

Imagine a multi-generational male tribe . . . Elders, men, adolescent males, and young boys, all focused on a positive journey toward a solid manhood. That tribe is evolving in Tucson, AZ (and in lots of other places).

I just completed staffing another Raven Weekend. These are what I call a “welcome to the world of men” weekend experiences for 9-12 year-old boys. This was the first ever Raven Weekend in Tucson, AZ. While small in numbers, it was wildly successful for the men and boys involved. If you add the Raven Weekend to the efforts of Mankind Project active in this area initiating adult men, and our Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend for adolescent males, a true, multi-generational men’s hut is being created in this community.

On this weekend, the staff of a dozen plus solid staff introduced an amazing pack of 9 young boys to "the world of men." Men and boys played capture the flag, drummed, juggled with a chicken, got muddy, learned the art of camouflage, stalking prey, wilderness shelter building, talked about bullying, and sat around the fires for storytelling. They met men with large hearts, learned about men’s lives at different ages in the span of a life, and feasted on Pizza. Simply stated, boy heaven.

In addition to the above, there were activities designed to introduce discussions about the cycle of life (living and dying), to encourage age appropriate emotional expression, and lots of time to celebrate the gifts and unique wisdom of each boy. Watching boys go through all these experiences has a powerful impact on the men also. For me, words that describe a Raven Weekend experience include play, fun, learning, adventure, sweetness, remembering, blessings, and caring.

The weekend was skillfully led by Pete Young from Ashland, OR. Pete has been doing these weekends around the country and evolved a powerful template that is perfectly suited to the young male experience and energy output.

At the end of the weekend when the new Ravens were awarded a talisman honoring their experience, one young guy summed it up pretty well. He said, “it was the funnest weekend ever!”

At this link:, you can see some of the photos of the Tucson Raven Weekend. If you weren't there, you won't see everything that happened and some of the pictures may not make sense. You’d have to talk to a staff man or Raven to get the whole story. If you’re really curious, or possibly want to host a Raven Weekend in your community, you can contact Pete Young.

If you can handle the energy output, you too may have the "funnest weekend" in a very long time.

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November 12, 2010

Who Was That Man, For You?

When I speak to groups of men about becoming man-makers for younger guys, I often hear excuses which if you probe deeper, are really thinly veiled fears about their feelings of inadequacy. In various ways men suggest they don't have what it takes, they won't measure up to the task in some way, or the sad notion they might even cause some harm to a young male.

In those sessions, when I encounter that fear, I like to invite them to remember their man-makers, the men that were present for them early on their journey to manhood. As those discussions unfold, beautiful stories of important connections are told. Sometimes as short as a few hours or brief conversations. Often we'll hear histories of long term involvements with a relative, neighbor, coach, or just "this guy" who was there for me. Sometimes men get teary remembering the impact an older man had in his life.

I like to remind men that their man-makers were not specially gifted, trained for mentoring, or unique in any way. They were just seeing something attractive or maybe a need in a young male, and responding . . . naturally. I love hearing these stories and have started collecting them. You can read a few in the "Men's Stories" section of the Man-Making website.

The story below is one of those tales of a good man showing up for a younger male in need sent in by Dave K., a blog subscriber. If you have a story like this, send it to me for the story archive or put it in the comment section of this post so we can all read it. These memories warm the heart and maybe, just maybe, they might encourage you to show up as a man-maker for a young guy in your life . . . naturally.

A few weeks ago I began a car trip to northern part of the state. I had spent most of the summer driving, I was tired of being on the road, and I was happy this would finally be my last big drive of the summer. It was worth the effort though. My old friend, mentor, and work colleague Frank, had called and invited me up to his summer home for a visit. Frank is 80 and suffers from Parkinson's. I knew he had always been an active man so I asked if he would be up for a round of golf. "You bet" was his spirited reply.

Forty years prior, when I first joined the orchestra, I pretty much thought of myself as the hottest french horn player on the planet. Frank was there before me and had established himself in our workplace and in the community. He was a father of three, but for me Frank was the big brother I had never had. When I screwed up at work and my shame was overwhelming, he somehow knew and would always show up with sound advice and a comforting arm on my shoulder. To say that he was a mentor to me understates his value in my life. I always knew he cared about me and he was a constant example of the man I wanted to become.

As I teed up the ball for my first drive of the round with Frank, I just wanted to hit the ball into the fairway and not screw up too bad in front of him. Of course I swung too hard and the ball dribbled out 15 yards in front of me. Frank had been a great golfer and won many tournaments in the past. On this day however, he had to have his wife tee up the ball because his Parkinson's had robbed him of a steady hand. He stood for a long time in front of the ball with his body a little shaky, and then smoked it out about 100 yards. "I used to hit it a little longer than that" was his only comment. When we hit the 18th hole he remarked that he was tired. I said that I was glad that we were finally evenly matched. He laughed.

On that visit, I had been thinking about all the years that Frank had been such a positive force my life. So before I left I thanked him for his friendship and all the guidance he'd given me over the years. I said that whenever I don't know what to do I ask myself, "what would Frank do?," and I have the answer." He smiled and then looked at the ground, a little embarrassed. I'm glad I found the courage, in that too brief and awkward moment, to tell him how important he was to me.

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November 4, 2010

International Men's Day this MOvember

Let the celebrations begin!

International Men's Day (IMD) is an annual, international event celebrated on 19th of November. The day was apparently inaugurated in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago. Another part of the story is that it may be associated with the date in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, honoring and remembrance of the men who sacrificed their lives during America’s Civil War. What ever it's origins, today the day and it's events are supported by groups in Australia, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and even the United Nations.

The many websites that turn up in a search on IMD have a common message about it's purpose, namely:
  • To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and men in sports, but everyday, working men who are living decent, honest lives.
  • To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.
  • To focus on men’s health and well-being; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
  • To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
  • To create a safer, better world; where all people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential

Sounds like reasons enough to gather, connect, talk, and celebrate. Check out the many references to IMD on the web. You may find a celebration in your community on the 19th. If not, gather some men friends, honor what's wonderful about being a man, and then collect and donate some cash for prostate cancer research!

Speaking of fundraising . . .

MOVEMBER: No not a typo, Movember is a companion celebration that has become associated with IMD. Movember is a combination of the words Mustache and November, and is the title of an annual month-long event involving the growing of mustaches. The event has been claimed to have been invented in 1999 by group of Australian men from Adelaide.

According to the US Movember website, Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a mustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st clean-shaven and then grow a mustache for the entire month. The mustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a mustache for 30 days.

Gotta love the moxie these guys have. They actually hold a gala event and award "Moscars" for really good looking facial hair! All to raise money for cancer research in male diseases. Check that out on their site too.

Here is a video showing how one man raised money by getting someone else to shave his "mo!"

If the video isn't visible, you can see it at this link.

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October 29, 2010

Retribing:The Unpaved Road to Manhood

In response to my request about good books for young guys, Dave Welling, a friend and solid man-maker (connected with Boys to Men - Toronto), sent along this review of the book, Retribing: The Unpaved Road to Manhood. If you have a book you like for tweens or teens, please let me know. I'll add it to the list of recommended books on the Man-Making website.

Earl, I would highly recommend the book Retribing: The Unpaved Road to Manhood by A.J. Rippo. It’s a very compelling story about one boy’s experience of moving toward manhood. The boy at the center of the story is about seven years old at the start. Initially his name is not mentioned, but he acquires the name Twerp as the story unfolds. One day after his parent's divorce, the boy is out hiking in the hills when he discovers an old Indian ruin. He takes the opportunity of the isolation to shout his anger and sadness to the wind. A moment later an old native war chief appears to him and begins the process of guiding the boy on his path toward manhood.

Twerp's process involves earning 12 eagle feathers in various challenges designed to strengthen him and increase his knowledge. It's the chief who gives the boy the name Twerp, and guides his training through tasks and stories. For example, a story about ice cream results in, Thoughts are like food, they either nourish you or poison you. Swallow only good food. Spit out the bad.... disappointment is no reason to eat poison. Throughout the book, as Twerp grows up from age 7 to seventeen, he revisits the ruin when he feels a need in his life. Each time, the war chief appears with a lesson based on what the boy is struggling with at the time.

The idea of earning your way to manhood is a very old concept, and achieving twelve eagle feathers is a story line that will keep the attention of most young boys. For example, Twerp's first feather is the "Feather of Perspective." This feather is earned when he realizes there is a world beyond himself. The old war chief helps him understand what "Perspective" means, then Twerp is instructed to go live that lesson until he can prove, on his next visit to the chief, that he has truly mastered the concept. Each feather is presented at a special place among the ruins in a ritual between the boy and the chief. Other feathers are earned in different ways. There is the "Feather of Balance", the "Feather of Faith", and the "Feather of Discipline," to name a few. But then I don’t want to give away too much of the story.

I like the idea how the boy learns he must re-tribe himself. He is instructed by the war chief to create a new tribe for himself because his own tribe is broken. He learns there are many times in life when a boy needs the wisdom and support of a male elder. The boy also learns there is no one elder who can teach you everything you need. To accomplish the challenge of finding these wise men, the war chief teaches the boy how to expand his tribe and to find the guides he will need for his journey.

I also really liked the underlying lesson that the war chief himself learns. It turns out that the chief is rewarded with HIS 13th feather for shepherding Twerp, thus both males complete a stage on their respective paths toward manhood.

The book unfolds a tale any boy can understand (and it will resonate with many men too!). It’s a book that celebrates what one boy’s journey toward manhood represents for the boy, his initiators, and his tribe.

Order Retribing: The Unpaved Road to Manhood from Amazon at this link.

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October 24, 2010

Banged Up Boys, Boats, and Masculine Gravity

I still remember the smell of sawdust that hit me when I entered my first woodworking shop. I'm an older man and I attended that class way back in the day when "shop" was what the boys did in elementary school while the girls were baking cookies upstairs. The shop teacher, Mr. Alexander, was a burly man's man and he ruled his domain with an attitude of competence, and a powerful respect for the danger and creative power of his tools.

The wood shop held about eight work benches, saws, hammers, and what appeared to me to be lots of generally strange and dangerous stuff. After learning the rules of working around all the equipment, we were introduced to a pattern of the object we were to create from the pile of the lumber in the corner. After studying that map, we proceeded to learn about wood, measuring, sawing, sandpaper, screws, staining, and all the tools required for those tasks. I'm sure you can imagine the chaos that ensued.

That experience remains a happy memory today, and I still have and use the little footstool that resulted from my time in that class. Mr. Alexander's shop was one of my early introductions to the world of men. It had a powerful impact on my self-esteem and 11-year-old sense of what it meant to be a man.

For most young males, working with tools of any kind is a doorway into the world of men. In this post I want to describe the wonderful chemistry that can happen when a man takes the risk to share his shop, workbench, tools, and his experience with boys. While this work can take many forms, both of these stories have to do with boats.

The first is about what happened to John Connell, a man who loves restoring old canoes. John was a teacher in a school that featured alternative educational programs for what he calls “banged up kids.” “We had an open house and a guy asked if I wanted an old canoe for the kids to work on,” he said. From that moment on, John's life and the lives of many kids were changed forever. You can read the whole story at this link. As you might guess, John is about building good kids as much as canoes. He says, “A canoe can be a vehicle to learn about work, authority, and initiation,” he said. “The kids find pride and accomplishment in finishing a boat.”

Another man, Brad Buxton, had some men friends that were passionate about wooden boats. They eventually decided that their interest in the craft would be a good thing to share with young men. They managed to get some shop space donated at a shopping center and started inviting other men and boys. It is now 15 years later and Urban Boat Builders (UBB) is a not-for-profit organization that has served 2,700+ teens, interacted with 38 juvenile justice programs, public schools, charter schools and neighborhood organizations, and now has over 175+ wooden boats built ranging from 9' long to 25' long. You can learn more about UBB on their website.

If you are a man with a passion for tools, or stamps, or birds, or hunting, or ?????, consider taking the risk to share it with a group of young guys. What I call Masculine Gravity may just take over and result in many lives, including yours, being changed forever.

Do you have a story about a man who shared his interests with you when you were a kid? If you're willing, please do send it along to me, or add it to the comments section of this post.

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October 20, 2010

The New Macho

Last September Newsweek joined the print media rush with their series of articles on the recently popular general theme, What's the Matter with Men? Their approach is, Why it’s time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home. You can read their response to that statement on their blog, I'm not taking up the topic here.

Rather, I'll own up to having been on a personal quest for years to determine what, for me, constitutes an authentic and personally relevant sense of manhood. I think a lot of men and way too many boys are on that same journey. It's in part why I do this blog, and maybe, why you read it.

So I found it interesting when Boysen Hodgson, a friend of mine, took it on himself to begin to describe for himself what he calls The New Macho paradigm. Boysen is a member of the ManKind Project and you can see his article in context and other related articles on the MKP website. With his permission, his description is reproduced below for your consideration. He says he is well aware that it is a work in progress . . . perhaps like men and the definition of manhood today!

I like it! What do you think?

The New Macho

He cleans up after himself.
He cleans up the planet.
He is a role model for young men.
He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.

He holds himself accountable.
He knows what he feels.
He knows how to cry and he lets it go.
He knows how to rage without hurting others.
He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.
He seeks self-mastery.

He's let go of childish shame.
He feels guilty when he's done something wrong.
He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.
He teaches others how to be kind.
He says he's sorry.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.
He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.
He stopped letting his penis run his life.
He has enough self respect to tell the truth.
He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.
He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.
He knows how to roll with it.
He knows how to make it happen.
He is disciplined when he needs to be.
He is flexible when he needs to be.
He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

He's not afraid to get dirty.
He's ready to confront his own limitations.
He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.
He looks for ways to serve others.
He knows he is an individual.
He knows that we are all one.
He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.
He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.

He knows that the future generations are watching his actions.
He builds communities where people are respected and valued.
He takes responsibility for himself and is also willing to be his brother's keeper.

He knows his higher purpose.
He loves with fierceness.
He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.

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October 15, 2010

The Mentoring Journal

It's not often you hear about an actual "tool," you can use to enhance the quality of the connection between an adult and a young person. That's why I was interested when I learned about the Mentoring Journal. The Journal is the most recently published resource from the Friends for Youth Mentoring Institute. Its a spiral-bound, 122 page, collection of resources for mentors and their mentees. It's currently being used by almost 1,500 mentor/mentee matches in programs around the US. It can also be a valuable publication for anyone who is in a supportive relationship with a young person.

The Mentoring Journal contains lots of activity ideas, stickers, and suggestions for goal-setting in the relationship. There are places for a mentor and a mentee to create a diary or log of their shared experiences, room for photos, and even some guidance for a respectful closure of the match should that be necessary. It's a great way to be more intentional about co-creating your connection, to document the history of your relationship, and capture those special memories that you've shared.

If you want to learn more about how to use the Mentoring Journal in your relationship with a young person, or within a formal mentoring program, Friends for Youth is offering a FREE webinar on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 from 10:00 – 11:30 AM (PDT). Go to this link to learn more about the webinar and to sign up if you're interested.

If you are aware of any other resources that could support someone involved with a formal mentoring relationship, or who just has a young person in their life they are connected to, please tell me about it. I'm happy to share it here.

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October 9, 2010

Make A Difference - One Kid At A Time

When I see young guys step up and take on the world, it increases my optimism about the state of the world. In this wonderful video, Birke Baehr takes on "what's Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?" at the TEDxNextGeneration meeting in Asheville, NC. I'm sure he's had some adult support to show up this way, but he is certainly the right kid for the challenge. In this talk Birke gives new meaning to the line from the poem Boys, " . . . A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Beauty with a cut on its finger, Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair and the Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket.”

If the video isn't visible, you can see it at this link.

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September 30, 2010

Fighting Invisible Tigers

I remember a few years back getting a hand-written letter from a young kid in jail. He had shot another kid in a gang-banging incident and, at 15, was sentenced for murder. He had found my book, Fighting Invisible Tigers, in the library of his facility and in his letter he was begging me to "help me do something about my anger." Call this self-promotion if you like, but I get about 10 letters a year from kids, some who need help and some saying "thank you" for the perspective they got from the book.

Let's face it, the pressures on kids today are extraordinary. Academic, social, digital, economic, and then there is whatever is going on in their family life. This book was originally written in 1982 and continues to sell in the thousands of copies every year. Over a quarter million sold to date. While I'm happy about that, it's more of a testimonial to the need for support young people are expressing.

At this link you can hear a podcast of an interview I did with Bobbi Connor at The Parent's Journal. In it you will learn a lot about my views on the topic of kids and stress in the world today: what kids are up against, the risks they face, and how parents can help. I also talk about stress management skill building. For example, you can hear me define the difference between stress coping strategies (dealing with the feelings of stress) and real stress management skills. I speak to a few of the 10 stress reducing strategies discussed in the book.

My award-winning publisher, Free Spirit Publishing, has included some relaxation training mp3's on the Tiger's web page on their site. If you'd like to try on a quick psycho-physiologic relaxation break, you can hear yours truly guiding you through a short program that may help bring some calm into your stressful day. Stress management skills aren't just for kids, right?

Thanks for indulging me in this wee bit of self-promotion. In addition to my passion for connecting young males with good men, in the Tigers book, I'm doing what I can to make the world a better place for young people. I hope this inspires you to do the piece you can do.

PS: The kid who wrote me from jail got out, is doing great, and on February 6, 2011, he will celebrate 10 years of freedom. He's a nurse working in a home that serves HIV patients. He's a strong and capable young man, launched in a professional career. His anger is no longer an issue.

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September 24, 2010

Boys Come Into The Room Poem

A couple of my heroes are Chris Frisco and Jon Leidel. They are part of a solid tribe of very good men associated with the Boys to Men Mentoring Network. I have written about the network here previously. It's an organization doing the very important work of supporting boys through a rite of passage experience and then engaging the new "Journeymen" graduates in a variety of mentoring activities after their passage weekends.

While hundreds of beautiful stories about men and boys have come out of this work, this poem, written by Chris and Jon, really captures the nature of the work. I hope it speaks to you also.

Boys Come Into The Room

Boys come into the room. Mad boys, sad boys, anxious boys. Left on their own boys. Hordes of boys. Good boys. Lied to boys, "Don't trust a thing you say, man." boys come into the room. Boys who hate boys.

Boys who hate themselves come into the room. Medicated, sedated and berated boys. Marker sniffin, Weight liftin, alone driftin boys. Boys come into the room. I pod rockin, X-boxin like a toxin, "just one more level!", boys. Sh...aved heads, nappy dreads, fly threads, will kill you dead boys. Hungry for the wisdom of men boys, come into the room.

Boys come into the room. Boys that try to "man up" always tryin to one up.. Bacon eatin bully boys, beatin smarter bambi boys come into the room. Pimply boys. Squeaky boys. "Sure i've laid a girl" boys come into the room. Mommy lovin, tatoo wantin boys. "Boy that only a mother could love" boys come into the room. Street slangin, jean hangin, creature of the streets bangin boys come into the room.

Boys come into the room. Fidgety boys. Won't look you in the eye boys. "You don't know shit about me, man!" boys come into the room. Shoulders slumped, chin down frown wearin, under a boulder of neglect boys come into the room. No Father, why bother, "don't give a fuck about school" boys. Game havin, body slammin, lookin for love boys.

Boys that create, boys that destroy, boys that trade lunch for toys boys. Creative boys. Dreamin boys, schemin boys, slippin' through the seams boys, come into the room. Boys who want for nothin, longing for that special somethin from men, boys.

Boys come into the room. Wonder where the men gone boys. "Have you seen my father?" boys runnin with his home boys, come into the room. Scattered boys. Battered boys. "phatter than his weight," boys come into the room. Lugi in the lunchroom boys. Wizard cloaked, chicken choked "boys that want their fires stoked" boys come into the room. Startin to forget boys. Fresh wound bleedin, scar hidin, no denyin, world collidin boys come into the room. Thinkin bout dyin, boys?

Boys come into the room. Boys in juvi, wall taggin boys. Pot smokin, pill poppin, brawlin, crawlin, cryin, lyin boys come into the room. Full of fire, gettin higher, willin to aspire "If someone would only cut me a break!" boys come into the room. Baseball lovin, weak fist havin, killin their step fathers in their sleep boys. Boys who cant throw a strike, never been on a hike, "I cant get cell service out there, man." boys come into the room. rappin on the mic right boys. Boys with reasons to be madder than hell come into the room.

Boys will be boys - come into the room! Sword carryin, world conquerin, paradigm shiftin boys come into the room. Boys that speed, boys that bleed, boys that need come into the room. Pining boys, whining boys, shining boys, searching for a silver lining boys. Mistake makin, earth shakin, givin and takin boys come into the room. Boys with heart, boys who fart, boys who focus like a dart come into the room. Come into this room boys... a safe place to grieve, to believe, to wear your feelings on your sleeve. What will you need to leave to achieve, boys?

What do you have to offer these boys?

Chris Frisco and Jon Leidel

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September 20, 2010

Are Painful Rites of Passage Necessary?

The recent Leaving Neverland Man-Making blog post reminded me of the problem cultures down through time have faced as their young ones began to leave the things of childhood behind and started poking around in the business of the adult world. This in-between time has always been considered a dangerous phase in an adolescent’s development, a situation that begs for attention from the adults in his community.

The in-between time for an adolescent even has a name . . . it is called the liminial state. As one anthropologist, Victor Turner wrote, Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremony. Most societies considered adolescents to be extremely vulnerable and even dangerous during this time because of their social ambiguity. Does that sound familiar?

The Mende people are one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. Their Poro Men’s Society is the group charged with preparing young males for leadership in their community. During the period the liminial males are being trained, they are actually considered dangerous. The men of the community “play pipes and yell warning cries to prevent passers-by from coming into contact with them.”

Dogon Circumcision Cave Painting

And so it has been for societies all over the world. The community and the men have had to surround the boys, get their attention, and using the collected wisdom of the ages, transmit important knowledge, experience, and ideas that can support them on their quest for manhood.

Following his training, there was often a painful ordeal for the young male. This clearly, and without question, marked his crossing out of neverland and into a new station in life. With that crossing came a new identity and adult male responsibilities. His body (and psyche) often bore potent reminders, for the initiate and his community, that a new man had arrived in town.

In the following video, a young boy from the Dogon people in Mali is about to experience a painful practice that is believed to move him out of that middle-ground between boyhood and manhood. As uncomfortable as it is to watch, it might be preferable to the fate too many contemporary boys (and men) are paying for staying in neverland.

What do you think?

Use this link if the video doesn’t appear.

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September 11, 2010

What Knot To Do With Boys

One of the fears men talk about when they are considering stepping up as a man-maker in the life of a boy or boys is the sense that they don't have anything to offer, or at least enough to offer the young guys. While just being a man is sufficient, men have to be around boys a while to learn that seemingly simple lesson.

One way this common fear is expressed is in the statement, "I don't know what to do with a boy or boys." To help men with that issue, I provide a 3 page list of suggestions, and it could easily be twice that long. In truth, the mix of a man and boy's interests alone can keep the duo busy for a very long time, with even the simplest of activities. More on that in another post.

I was reminded of how simply I was entertained as a young guy when I came across the Animated Knots by Grog™ website. I no longer remember where I first encountered the art of tying knots. Maybe it was scouting, or maybe my neighbor, but I do remember it being both amazing and manly. There was an endless supply of knots and each one had a history and a specific purpose. The challenges of discovery, learning, and mastering a few knots kept me going for months . . . and I'm still using them today! If you want to fill a few hours with a young guy or pack of boys, just get a pile of cheap rope and go to it.

If you didn't have the benefit of knot tying training early in your life, help is at hand. There are lots of results to any internet search for knot tying. What I really like about the Animated Knots by Grog™ website is how the animations walk you through how to tie every imaginable type of knot, one step at a time. The complete instructions for each knot also include some history and how to use the knot. He has even divided knots up into neat categories like boating, climbing, fishing, decorative, and rescue! There are even instructions for tying a tie, a skill full of promise for future success in business.

If you're in possession of an iPhone and want to take your knots with you, the Animated Knots by Grog™  website has an application you can download, or you can buy the DVD for ten bucks. You'll be an expert in no time.

Check out the Animated Knots Website, learn a couple knots yourself, and if you even find yourself in the company of some young guys, you'll become an instant hero with just this little bit of guy magic.

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September 3, 2010

Leaving Neverland - Why Little Boys Shouldn't Run Big Corporations

Leaving Neverland is a very timely book, hot off the press, and sure to be a winner. The author, Daniel Prokop, states, Little boys wearing men's bodies and designer suits convinced authorities to put them in charge of the banking cookie jar. We shouldn’t be surprised that they helped themselves to our cookies. And my favorite, When little boys playing in the Gulf of Mexico broke a big, shiny toy and made a catastrophic mess, surely we can all agree that it is time for us to Leave Neverland.

Among other professions, Daniel Prokop has run his own business, is an experienced Rites of Passage leader, and a stand-up comic. He confesses he once worked as a laborer on a big turkey farm where they were doing artificial insemination . . . which he says put him off having sex with turkeys for life. He also spent 13 years working in an unnamed oil company with a BIG red and yellow logo, which has given him some perspective on big boys and shiny oily toys.

You can order the book and read the table of contents and first chapter at the Leaving Neverland website. While I'm sure the book will be an informative, thoughtful, and very entertaining read, at $39.95 a copy for those of us outside of Australia, it will take a lot of screamingly positive reviews to put it on most people's must get list. Daniel is working on making his book available via Print on Demand in the US and Europe and also as an E-book. I'll let you know when those editions come available.

The good news is that the discussion about little boys in big boy suits behaving badly is well under way. In this clip the author discusses his philosophy and the importance of Rite of Passage experiences in the lives of boys and men.

Go to this link if the video isn't visible.

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August 31, 2010

Evolving Men's Conference

You have to love the moxie of a guy that calls himself a men’s visionary, coach and contemporary psychology geek. It takes a guy with that kind of gonads to put out a call to the leaders of diverse men's organizations to come together and talk . . . collaborate . . . and co-create something even bigger. Apparently that something "bigger" means bigger than what they are currently leading.

Jayson Gaddis is hosting the Evolving Men's Conference-Build The Foundation Weekend in Boulder, Colorado on this September 25th and 26th. The stated purpose of the gathering is as follows, . . . to bring together established leaders of men’s groups, fatherhood groups, and men’s organizations to brainstorm and plan the development of an Evolving Men’s Conference. The intention is to galvanize the men’s movement, promote collaboration among different men’s organizations, and evolve the consciousness of men around the world.

In the clip just below, Jayson describes what he sees as men's tendencies to work in isolation, in their cave, and as a result he feels men's organizations are also isolated and missing the benefits of collaboration. Jayson says he is unaware of any national scale men's gathering and it sounds like he's hoping to create a men's Woodstock of sorts in Boulder. At the conference, Jayson is hoping to, blast through that “tired paradigm. . . . to practice collaboration and transparency, both hallmarks of the new and emerging masculine paradigm.

From where I sit, I see existing and mature men's organizations reinventing themselves for relevancy. There are new groups supporting men popping up all around the globe, and there are lots of men's groups serving diverse populations of boys, fathers, and women. All of these groups are becoming more visible because of the Internet.

While I'm not sure the men's "movement" is in need of "galvanizing," I am impressed with the scale and scope of Jayson's intention. As I've said in the past and continue to believe, anytime men gather for personal or organizational development, many good things always result. For that reason, I'm happy to support this gathering.

Check out this clip, visit the Evolving Men's Conference website, and decide for yourself if time with good men (and autumn in Boulder, CO) is right for you.

Go to this link if the video isn't visible.

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August 25, 2010

A Message to Gay Men

In the comments section of the last Man-Making Blog post, What Men Get, I received this anonymous and angry reply from a gay man:
While lambasting me with all the fire and brimstone, remember it is "your dominating culture" that said I had to alienate myself from mentoring, teaching, coaching, comforting, or healing boys because I am not heterosexual. So take your shame and cost calculations and shove it all where it came from. Thanks and good luck. 
In my response to him I told him I have a gay nephew and many gay men and women friends. I explained that I really do understand the ugly, bigoted, unfairness with which many GLBT people are treated. I pointed out that in this world because of pedophile priests and other damaged men, today any man who shows interest in mentoring boys is vulnerable to being labeled a predator. In fact, that fear was one of the common barriers to involvement with boys mentioned by men in the research for the Man-Making book. Getting past these fears is work many men will have to do in order to show up for young males in any way. I encouraged Anonymous to support the young guys in his family, reach out to the children of his GLBT and other friends, or to find his way to a mentoring organization that is open to GLBT mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS)is one of many organizations that welcome GLBT mentors, and has for more than 20 years. It is their policy to ask the family of a potential mentee if they are open to a GLBT Big Brother or Sister for their son or daughter, and to invite the GLBT volunteer to take the same background check all mentor candidates must pass. The people at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities office in my home city of St. Paul said they were happy to have GLBT Big Brothers/Sister volunteers and they have many happy stories of matches with gay Bigs.

As I was preparing this post, I received another comment on the What Men Get post from a gay man named Dan. His response to Anonymous is a good message for us all:

Dear Anonymous,

I am a fellow gay guy. I had fears of becoming a mentor to boys because of the negative messaging we get from the community at large. I get your apprehension.

That said, I chose to break through the fear and do it anyway. I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Minneapolis. It was an experience that made my life better. More importantly, it made the life of my Little Brother better. Though the match only lasted a year, I helped a shy Mexican boy grow to be more outgoing. He became so by simply having a friendship with me, an adult. He loved to fish. So we joined other BBBS matches for fishing outings and also used Minneapolis Park Programs for the same. By the end of that summer, a timid 7 year old became an 8 year old who was helping the other kids with their worms, untangling lines, and taking fish of the hooks. In such a short time, he grew and it made a difference for a lifetime. He was not gay, nor did his parents care that I was. It is the friendship that ultimately matters to all of us.

My experience with BBBS was good; and I would encourage you to try them. They interview kids and parents and ask them if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Big that is gay. They then ask the Big if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Little that is gay. Then they make a match. I reinforced this conversation with the parents via the social worker - because I REQUIRED that they know that I am gay. This is perhaps an extra step we have to take, but so what.

I can say with certitude to anyone who might read this - the sexual orientation of the mentor does not matter. Get out there and prove 'em wrong buddy, it's worth it. Make a difference.


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August 13, 2010

What Men Get

Do you know there are personal costs for men who choose NOT to become makers of men for young guys? Through my research, interactions with men at conferences, and on rite of passage weekends, I've learned men who don’t answer the call to serve adolescent males, whether they realize it or not, accrue what I might term a shadow over their sense of masculinity.

Try some of these on to see if they are a fit for you:
  • The subtle sense of shame that comes from ignoring the responsibility to helping emerging males. Having to live with the vague notion and quiet voice saying “maybe I could have done something,” when they learn about lost, violent, or imprisoned boys.
  • The sense of isolation that comes with being disconnected across the generations. The feeling of being lost without male mentors, elders, connections to young males, or intimate connections to other men. As a result, men expressed problems with finding their right place in the male order of things.
  • Confusion about your “job description” as an adult male in boys’ lives, and your community.
  • Being out of touch with young male energy, angst, confusion, playfulness, sexual development, physicality, technology, curiosity, music, fashion… and opportunity to revisit those parts of your incomplete journey to manhood.
  • The feelings of detachment from life in your extended family, neighborhood, and community.
  • Being unsure or feeling incomplete as a man. Many men stated they never experienced a clear and undeniable arrival into manhood that allowed a proud confidence in their masculinity.
  • Feeling stuck and alone on your journey to manhood.

These are just a few examples of the costs that mount up when men don’t honor the man-making call from deep in their genes. This is the price men pay for not discovering and implementing their instinctual, man-making talents. MOST IMPORTANTLY, this is also a description of the weight that is lifted when men step forward, in some large or small way, in service to boys.

In addition to being relieved of the costs of inaction, men engaged in man-making begin to immediately experience a number of positive returns. In my article What Men Get, I describe both the costs of inaction, and ten "gifts of involvement" that always change men's lives for the better. Click here to read that article.

 You make me want to be a better man!
(10 points if you can name the actor and movie)

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August 6, 2010

Woodshop, Tackle Boxes, Towers, and Good Men

I want to tell you a story about a man.

When I was a boy, from 8 till about twelve, my home life was powerfully shaped by alcoholism. There was always fear of irrational behavior and possibly screaming fights between my parents. There were mountains of disappointments from promises not kept, living in fear, never any money, and pretending it was all somehow normal and OK. My dad worked nights, slept days, and there was no place for me during his drinking time on the weekends. The other men of my family had long since run away from each other and I was left, alone, with my mom and sister to try make sense of it all. That's really the very short story.

Our next door neighbor was Mark Moore. Our houses were barely twenty feet apart and he was no stranger to the drama going on in our house. Mark was the father of two girls a little older than me and a very gentle man. I would later learn Mark had a different brand of insanity going on in his house, and his refuge was the woodworking shop in his garage. It became a refuge for me too.

The sound of his table saw was always a call for me to go hang out at Mark's. I loved the smell of fresh cut wood and the amazing ease with which Mark could turn raw lumber into useful objects. I don't remember anything of what was said between us, but I do remember working with him to build a footstool. For a kid from a house with maybe a screwdriver and pliers, actually helping to build something captured my attention for weeks. Going over the stool pattern, the sensual pleasure of sanding wood, the smell of the bit in wood when drilling holes, and using a hammer to put the thing together was all a thrilling experience for me. I still have that stool.

Mark was also the guy who introduced me to "getting the meat." One day he said, "Hey, you wanna go fishin?" Mark knew how to draw out the fishing foreplay. That single question meant days spent looking at maps and talking about where to fish. We discussed what to fish for, bait to use, what to do if you get a fish, and spent time getting the rods ready and hours of practice casting in the back yard. Then there was the big moment when he introduced me to the magic of a tackle box. When he opened the lid of that green box, I saw a collection of all the mysterious implements men use in this kind of hunt. There were lures, old bobbers, spinners, leaders, old line, line weights, knives, all enveloped in the most masculine fragrance a 9 year-old had ever encountered. I later learned it was the smell of thirty years accumulation of beer, gasoline, fish guts, and pipe smoke. To me it seemed each item in the box cast a unique spell and would be as irresistible to the fish as it was to me. While it's odd to me, I can only remember going fishing with Mark once and, except for a little catch-and-release sunfish, getting skunked.

We lived near Highland Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. The once highest point in the city was the thirteen-story Highland Park Water Tower. It was built in 1928, and when I was a kid it was a monolith that dominated my world. When Mark learned the tower was going to hold its annual two-day opening, he invited me and my best friend Larry to go along for the adventure. It was a long, 151 step climb though a very dark vertical tunnel, until we burst out into the light at the top. Until that moment, I had never seen a vista of that scale. Mark gave us each a boost up to see over the guard fence and pointed out all the important places in my universe. I saw my house, my school, the movie theater, the Mississippi River, the State Fair grounds, and even the distant downtown centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul. On that day, my sense of the world I inhabited came together in a much larger picture. I knew more about where I was and how my local haunts fit into that picture. That's what good men who risk involvement with boys do, even with out trying. Lift them up, teaching them about the world of men, giving boys a bigger picture of the possibilities, and helping them to see where they belong in the male order of things.

Mark died years ago and I missed his funeral. No one told me. But just the mention of a man with the same name, Mark Moore, I overheard yesterday, has flooded me with images, and feelings of love and gratitude for his influence. He taught me so much about being a man without even trying. He found countless ways to bless me with appreciation, compliments, and caring. He was a soothing balm for my imploded, anxious, and very ragged boy soul. I know he enjoyed the company of a young guy looking up to him, but his attentions made my world safe and much less frightening just because he was there.

Thank you Mark. I love you.


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