On this page you’ll find a growing collection of men’s stories about their man-making experiences . . . large and small actions to intentionally make a positive difference in boy’s lives. Fathers, mentors, men working with boys on Rite of Passage events.
These are stories that will touch your heart. Just pick a title here, read the story, and see what happens!
A Man’s Tribute to His Single Mom
Is it possible to thank mother’s enough (particularly single mothers) for all they do…in one day? Of course, the answer is no…but to forget any mother on Mother’s Day is inexcusable. You don’t need a expensive gift or a fancy card…take her out to dinner, call her and tell her you appreciate all she did over the years to make you the man you are today. For those of us raised by single mothers…we should thank them for not abandoning us when our fathers chose to walk away.
My mother raised 5 of us…4 daughters and me, her only son. For years my mother tolerated my father’s abuse, alcoholism and adultery. The physical abuse ended when I was about 14 and strong enough to stop him…over 40 years of drinking “corn liquor” destroyed my dad’s liver and kidneys and left him on dialysis until his death a few years ago…and the adultery gave me two “half brothers” by another mother, that I’m aware of…and possibly other brothers and sisters that I’ve never met. The interesting thing is that it was the adultery, that eventually forced my mother to file for a divorce after enduring over 15 years of abuse and alcoholism.
After my father left the house for good, I saw my mother for the first time in a different light…her struggles and her strength. She had little time to hurt. She would quickly wipe away her tears and replace them with a smile if we happened to walk into her room when she was crying. I can now appreciate that my mother had to overcome her fears and embrace her faith to find the courage raise 5 children without my father. To me she was beautiful, smart, articulate and well educated…but being a mother and homemaker took her out of the work force for many years and left her limited marketable skills. She was too proud to apply for food stamps or accept welfare. She realized she now had 5 children to feed, clothe and care for and without a moment’s hesitation my she immediately went back to work…selling shoes. I remember her working long hours and often coming home late at night…so tired that all she could do was kick off her shoes and collapse on her bed from exhaustion.
One night she came home, sat on her bed, took of her shoes and began to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she was just tired, her pay check was short and her manager refused to pay her full commission for all the shoes she had sold. She was overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated…so being the 14 year old “man of the house”, I felt I had to do something. Without telling my mother, I called her store manager and told him to “stop making my mother work so hard!”.
Apparently the manager understood my intentions because although my mother was upset when he told her that I had called, she gave me a warm hug and simply said, “don’t do it again”. She eventually resigned and after working several minimum wage jobs, she returned to what she did best, sewing. She rented a small office space and contracted with our high school to make the cheerleaders uniforms. Although the hours were just a long and I’m sure she was just as tired…at the end of the day she was smiling because she was self employed and making enough money to care for us.
With very little help from my dad, somehow over the years she managed to get enough sewing work to keep a roof over our heads until we all finished high school and moved out to make a life for ourselves. Today she lives alone, but she is never lonely. She lives in a small high-rise apartment in downtown Atlanta. She doesn’t drive anymore so I have the pleasure of taking her grocery shopping every other week. Although two of my sisters live out of state, they visit her every few months and we all call to check on her regularly. Like every adult relationship with parents, we don’t always agree…but we all tremendous love and respect our mother.
I’m a strong believer that men can never fully appreciate the special connection that God has created between mothers and children…but if we take the time to pray and listen to the our Mother’s we can learn a lot about being a better man, husband and father.
The Rising Son, Inc.
Young Men’s Development Center
A Boy’s First Shave
I stopped overnight in Vancouver on my way home from a trip to stay with my daughter. While there, my grandson asks me to show him how to shave. He’s sixteen, huge, towering over me like an infant football tackle, with peach fuzz sideburns and a sprinkling of facial hair. Neither my daughter nor her moms have felt up to the task and he’s been waiting for me.
I say, “Let’s go get you a razor and some shaving gel.” He says, “Could it be Gillette?,” as he has been watching way too much TV. We walk to the drugstore and select the desired gear.
Soon he’s lathered up before the bathroom mirror and I’m showing him how to decided where his sideburns will end. After a few strokes, he wants to take over and I watch him shave, seeing the serious look on his face and knowing that I’m participating in a rite of passage. I’m remembering how important this was for me. The hair is long and he persists. I tell him to shave upwards against the hair and it comes off more easily.
Then, he washes his face and looks in the mirror with a beaming smile of approval for what he sees. I tell him, “Wait ’til the girls at school see you.” He beams. Already he looks more like a man.
And I’m a proud grampa.
A Boy and A Train
I was at the post office and I heard a boy distressed and crying on the phone. He looked about 15 yrs old. I thought I should see if he needs some help. In that moment, do I walk away or stay and help? I waited till he got off the phone and said to him, ‘are you OK, do you need a hand’. He replied that he had just been kicked of the train because he did not have a ticket. He had been living in a town about two hours away with a girl friend and she had kicked him out and he did not have any money. He just wanted to get back home to his mum so he got on a train without a ticket. He had been on the phone to his mum.
I said, lets just go and get a ticket for the next train to your mum’s town. I bought him a ticket and then took him to the local cafe to get a meal. I left him there as I needed to get going and could not wait with him till the train came. As I left, he said to me ‘your a legend man’. Of course I felt good about that. But more importantly, I felt I had given him a sense of hope, a sense of not always being alone in the world and possibly a desire to help others.
Paddy M., Australia
Taking A Risk
Since reading your book I’ve been taking a risk to “acknowledge” the young guys I see during my day. Mostly I just say “hey guys,” to the packs of males I pass. They are always surprised and seem pleased. Sometimes I’ll kick in a compliment about how they look or some nice gear like a bike or a skateboard. That really lights them up. It is fun, and it does feel good. It reminds me of how invisible I was as a teenage male. Thank for the challenge.
Trust Between Men
When G.K. showed up as an experienced but young journeyman to help staff a Rites of Passage Weekend, I was concerned. I knew his dad really well – a calm, thoughtful, and deeply caring man. G.K., at 17 years old, was a different story. He was brash, intense, and rebellious against authority. Since I would be the authority, I knew there was a potential for trouble and it started the first night.
I had just laid out the rules on tobacco use at the camp. No smoking for anyone under 18 and a designated area for adult men who needed to smoke in a place far away from the activities. During the break he came up to me. “I just got one thing to say.” He was smiling, but I could see the venom behind it. “I ain’t quite 18 yet, but I’m gonna be smoking.” With that, he lit up in front of me.
I looked him over. Tall, sharp features, small glinting bling for his many piercings, stubbly hair sticking out of his recently shaved scalp — the picture of rebellion. And yet he was here, miles from home, to be in service to younger boys. He had done his own initiation rite, knew its power, but was still filled with adolescent fire and wanted to take me on. I could tell he was asking for something that didn’t have to do with cigarettes.
In that he was the only “young man” on staff, I trusted my gut and took a chance with him. “So, you want me to treat you like a man,” I said. “Well, yeah.” “All right, that means you have to act like a man and do a man’s job. Are you ready for that?” Now he was suspicious. “What’s the job?” “I need a Greeter.” His eyes popped up. “Seriously!” The Greeter stands at the front of the camp and asks each boy prior to entering whether he was sent by someone or if he’s here on his own accord. Those who claim to have been sent are asked to go back home. It’s an intense piece. He was perfect for it. I told him, “you can have the job with one condition. If anyone under 18 on this weekend gets a cigarette from you, you won’t be on staff again.” He agreed to my terms.
The weekend went well, and G.K. didn’t break his agreement. But during the closing staff circle after the initiates had gone home, I found out that it had been very hard for him. The very thing I had warned him about had happened. He told the circle that, “Two of those guys [initiates] came to me and offered me all kinds of stuff . . . you wouldn’t believe it, their cell phones, CDs, money – all for a cigarette. I was so tempted, but I didn’t do it because you trusted me.” He was crying as he thanked me and gave me a hug in front of everyone. On that day G.K. got a taste of what solid trust feels like between two men.
Collin, Rite of Passage Coordinator
A Soda Lesson:
As I ate my dinner at a fast-food Mexican place last evening I observed two teenagers, about seventeen is my guess, place an order and than bring their food to a table that was out of sight of the restaurant staff. I watched as they split a single burrito between them. I noticed also how both had really loaded up on the free chips and toppings. They had more chips than burrito; a great way to fill up on a budget. Both had those little clear plastic cups they give out for free water.
The situation reminded me of my own teen years and my buddy Mike, and how when we were broke, or close to it, we pooled our funds for food. It kind of made me chuckle inside. Anyway, one of the kids who had his back mostly to the room chugged his water real fast, got up and went back to the drinks dispenser. Using his body to block his action from view, he filled his water cup with soda and snuck it back to the table. He drank it down and went back for more. His buddy, I observed, was sticking to water.
That’s when I thought of your Sept. 11th Man-Making message about if you don’t have a story to tell, go out and look for an opportunity to do something positive for a boy. After an argument with my self I decided to do something. I didn’t know what that would be. I am not into shaming and blaming, but I am into helping. The question was; “How to help?”
I finished my dinner, dumped my tray and then pulled a chair up to their table. In a friendly way I asked if I could join them for a moment. Startled though they were, they both said sure, so I sat down. I told ‘soda boy’ I saw him take soda in his water glass. Frozen silence. He looked really scared; like I was going to turn him in or something. It was a ‘deer in the headlights’ moment. Then he poured the words out real fast that he really, really wanted a soda but they didn’t have the money. So I pulled a crisp dollar out of my wallet and told him the soda was on me.
With a huge smile of relief, the tension broken, he asked if this was a ‘play it forward’ kind of thing. I said no. I said that dishonesty, in my experience, every time it happens, no matter how small, takes something away from a person you don’t get back. I didn’t want that to happen to him. I said that for his own well-being he may have been better off just sticking with the water. The bill stayed on the table a moment as we all looked back and forth.
Next I said I was leaving and he had a choice. He could pocket the bill, which was okay with me, or he could go up to the counter and buy a soda. That would make his first servings legal as this place offered unlimited beverages for one price. He asked what if the soda was more than a dollar? I told him to just say to the man that all he had was a dollar and if can he get a soda for that. So off he went. I decided to stick around to see what happens. This was going way to well to leave. “Soda boy” returned in a minute or two with a smile and a soda; telling us it did cost more than a buck but the man gave it to him anyway.
Standing to leave I asked where they were going next. They were on their way to a church youth group to meet girls. I had to laugh. I did that too. Then it was their turn to ask where I was going. I replied I was on my way to the hospital to visit my daughter who is doing her fifth round of chemotherapy. That’s when ‘soda boy’ said his dad had cancer too. His dad was living in Australia and he had not seen or talked to him since he was nine years old.
I shook their hands, wished them well and left. So that’s my story of what happened yesterday evening. Earl, thanks for the encouragement. I feel good today.
A Boy and His Machete
On his first Rite of Passage Weekend, E.S. was a total pain. He arrived with a machete as long as my arm (which we confiscated); he didn’t want to join in most activities; and he stirred up trouble with the other boys. At one point, he threatened me by waving a branch of a tree with a sharpened end in my face. When I called him on it, he said, “Oh, just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?” After the weekend I thought I’d never see him again, but he came to the follow up support groups. He never said much in our circles and there was a second weapon waving incident with me – sharpened PVC pipe – but he came to almost all of our activities for a year.
The next weekend came along and E.S., because of his experience, had met all the requirements to staff. The Elders approved and he came to the camp wielding the massive machete again, even though being told specifically not to bring it. He reluctantly gave it up, again, and did a make-up service for the violation. Privately the mentors wondered what was up with E.S.
Six months into his second year, E.S. had attended almost all support groups again, but never said much. This is when another mentor and I took him aside. “Look man,” I said, “I’ve noticed you come to everything, which is great, but you never say a word. Now, that’s okay if that’s what you want, but if you want my trust, I need to know more about you. How about taking a risk and sharing more in the circle.” His eyes grew as large as saucers and again he didn’t say much. We left it at that.
After that moment, E.S. began to open up. During a group about goal-setting he shared his desire and fear about asking a girl to a school dance. With the groups support, he asked her, she said “yes,” and E.S. had his first date. And even though it turned out he didn’t like her much after all, he still got it done. From then on E.S. always shared what was going on in his life with us. He became the model of clear, direct, concise and truthful check-ins during the groups. I even used him as an example to help redirect long-winded new mentors.
Recently E.S. turned 18 years old and was ritually recognized as a man. He immediately sent in his paperwork to become a mentor. He heads off to college in the Fall, but I know he’ll be back. He was a co-leader in our last Mentor Training; he travels with us to do trainings for other Boys To Men communities; he can’t wait to staff another weekend for us; and he trusts us enough to no longer need the machete.
Collin – Rite of Passage Coordinator
Swimming to the Reef
When my wife, son, and I were living in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a small group of islands just east of the Bahamas, I spent a lot of time swimming around some of the most beautiful coral reef on the planet. When we arrived in the islands I immediately developed a habit of swimming the half mile out to the reef and spending an hour or two enjoying the “show.”
My son on the other hand was a city kid without much experience in nature. Almost every day I would invite him to accompany me on my swimming adventure, and every time he would decline. I shifted my approach with him and began to describe how marvelous it was, how I believed he could swim the distance, and how I would be right there if he got in trouble. I kept telling him how awesome he was going to feel when he saw the grey snappers, star fish, and giant groupers swimming amongst the red, purple, blue, and orange corral.
Eventually, he decided to go for it. Well, that lasted about an eighth of a mile out. It was a half a mile to paradise, and and he got scared and started panicking. I am a certified life guard so I got up close and whispered in his ear. “Everything is going to be fine, just relax I’ve got you.” I rolled him over on his back and cupped my hands under his chin and began kicking us out to glory.
When he realized we were swimming away from home he started crying and saying he wanted to go in. I said O.K. but we are real close. Just hang on two minutes and you are going to see stuff you’ve never seen before. When we were finally on the reef, we both relaxed. Almost immediately, out came a 80 lb. grouper from behind a beautiful purple stand of corral and then more and more and more. He looked at me and smiled. The trip in was uneventful because he wasn’t frightened. Later he thanked me for helping him overcome his fear and after that we spent a lot of time visiting the reef together.
A Son Is Shot
Just wanted to fill you in on the details regarding a young man that I knew who was killed by a Sheriff in Clayton County. Apparently the young man just lost it. He was involved in some sort of fight early yesterday at his apartment complex, then he allegedly set a fire, ran to a nearby gas station and attempted to rob a woman at knife point. When she ran from him and jumped into her car, he slashed one of her tires. He then went back into the store and began throwing wine bottles in a rage. The store manager apparently has known David for years and said that the behavior was totally uncharacteristic.
He left the store and ran to a nearby closed down gas station. When the police arrived, he allegedly lunged at the Sheriff with the knife and was shot and died on the scene. David was only 19 years old.
The David I knew was friendly and kind, yet very torn between the street life and a new found spirituality. He visited our office about a year ago and said he needed help getting his G.E.D. He was searching for a way out of the lifestyle he had been involved with, including selling drugs, robbery, and gangs. He was a very special young man…articulate, intelligent, courteous, and very respectful. He would often wear purple as a symbol of unity.
His dream was to end the fighting between the “red” flagged bloods and the “blue” flagged crips by merging the two colors together (purple). He was always trying to make peace between his friends by reminding them that they were all brothers in the eyes of God.
The last time I spoke to David was about three weeks ago. He stopped by with another of our members who was about to move to New York. They both had been very close friends since the 6th grade and had been through a lot together. As always, we talked for hours about anything and everything. I enjoyed listening to them…I only wish they had stopped by more often.
Contrary to what people might think, David was not a thug. He was at a turning point in his life but he was very confused and troubled about his past street life and his future. He was also being pressured by “friends” who wanted him to come back to the street life. I spoke to his closest friend his last night who told me that David may have been institutionalized recently for a short period for mental and emotional issues, and that drug therapy may have been used as a treatment. I can’t help but think that his behavior may have been a reaction to the drugs.
Ironically, I will begin working next week for the Sheriff’s department in Clayton County. Although I was deeply saddened and hurt by the way Dave died, I don’t blame the officer who felt his life was threatened. Taking a life is never an easy thing to do and I’m sure he did what he felt he had to do. As a husband and father myself, I’m sure he just wanted to make it back home to his family.
As men, we’ve got to do a better job teaching our boys to make the right choices, at all times . . . no matter what they are going through…and they have to know that when they feel overwhelmed, they can turn to us for guidance and advice.
I spoke to David’s father for the first time on the phone last night. He told me that his son had told him good things about The Rising Son, Inc. It’s regrettable that I will meet his father for the first time face to face at his son’s funeral. I don’t know why we never met before, but I’ve learned from this tragic loss that we must make every effort to get fathers more involved. Together we can give our sons a sense of hope, and hope keeps us all alive.
The Rising Son, Inc.
Young Men’s Development Center