October 1, 2012

Upside Stories about Men and Boys

I was feeling a little down. There has been endless news reporting about the recent killings in our community by yet another angry, lost man with a gun. Then, almost simultaneously, two very inspirational articles came across my desk. The positive messages in these stories about good men helping young males really got through, touched my heart, and gave me my optimism back. I'm sharing these articles with the hope they have the same positive impact on you.

The first story describes some of the important and exciting work with high school boys being done by the good men of Boys to Men Mentoring Network  (BTM). In an article on the San Diego News online, BTM co-founder Craig McClain describes what is at the heart of what they do in their school programs for young guys . . . speaking the truth:
We start off our meetings by telling (the boys) the truth about ourselves. Some of us went to prison. Some of us did drugs. There isn’t one thing these boys are thinking about that one of us hasn’t done.

Then we ask them, who wants to go next, and they’ll talk about gangs or drugs or hating their stepfathers. And we’ll say, ‘Is this what you want to do?’ And they’ll say no. We’ll ask about the consequences, and we’ll say, ‘Is this what you want?’ And they’ll say no. Then we’ll say, ‘Well, what do you want to do about it?’ We give them control over their lives.
The article goes on to show us what happens inside these school-based guys' groups as the men create a safe space for the boys to learn to trust, open up, and then decompress about the really hard parts of their lives.

You can read the whole article at the San Diego News online.

Boys to Men Mentoring Network centers have sprung up in more than 35 cities in seven countries around the world. Their San Diego area school programs, which started four years ago with one group (and 3 boys who were required to attend), now has between 80 and 90 volunteer male mentors working with almost 400 kids in 10 sites in the San Diego area. Check out the Boys to Men Mentoring Network website for more information.

The second story is from the Camden, New Jersey, CurrierPostOnline.com. It describes a luncheon put on by the Camden County Mentoring Institute, a coalition of mentoring providers, faith-based groups, and government institutions, all coming together to recruit and support volunteer mentors. The article describes some of what three successful men, raised without fathers, said at the luncheon to an audience of almost 200 Camden clergy, community leaders, law enforcement officials, and local residents, all of whom were there to support Camden’s youth.

I love the statement from the Camden Police Chief, Scott Thomson. His father died when he was 9, and in describing his own life he said, "But for the grace of God — and three fat cops who couldn’t catch me — I wouldn’t be here today!” As a career Camden cop, he recently became a mentor to a 9-year-old boy who was blinded by stray gunfire in the city. In his remarks, he described an all too common attitude among young guys in Camden. He remembered a conversation with a young man he had arrested for selling drugs.
“What are you going to do when you’re 21?” Thomson asked.

“I ain’t gonna live that long,” the youth replied.
You can read the whole article at the CurrierPostOnline.com.

Instead of the bad news about lost men and boys, I like hearing the counter-point, upside stories about the power of a man in a boy's life, or how a few men can do so much good in the lives of a bunch of young dudes in a school setting. It gives me hope for the future.

If you know of a similar Man-Making story, please send it along.

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