Mentors

Menstuff® is actively compiling information and resources on mentors and mentoring. As Michael Meade said, "If we don't initiate our young men, they will burn down the culture." Photos above - left icon by Sven Gillsater and right icon by Carole Patterson.

Men in Schools - for Boys
Youth Rage
He Played the Game
Take this quiz - Then Consider Becoming a Mentor
Sexism
Building a Sweat Lodge
Performing the Sweat Lodge Ritual
The Vision Quest

Related Issues: Talking With Kids About Tough Issues
Books on Mentoring, Ritual - Initiation and Ritual - Vision Quest.

Youth Rage
Abiodun Oyewole-The Last Poets

Grenades in their eyes and death is their prize.
Peace will arise and destroy the lies.

There are bombs standing on the corners of the cities, waiting to explode at the slightest touch.
Baggy shadow street boys stand cocked ready to fire. Their eyes are grenades and the pin is about to be pulled. BOOM!!!
The brother went off. Pressure pulled the trigger and no one could figure out how it happened. What went wrong?

He had a chance. Somebody even loved him, even told him that he was better than most. But he went off. Chains rattled inside his brain and his sky was filled with clouds that didn't even bring rain but just the illusion that something was coming. So he became a gun that he could hide in a jacket and make believe he had an erection all the time. He could penetrate anything. His tongue was a curse, his attitude was a bullet and he'd shoot you down without a second thought. He became G.I. Joe, killing his family, not the enemy. A human gun made and manufactured in the United States of America.

There are bombs standing on the corners of the cities waiting to explode at the slightest touch. Baggy shadow street boys stand cocked ready to fire, their eyes are grenades and death is their prize.

They are warriors looking for a rites of passage. They are young lions enchanted by the sound of their roar. They are diamonds treated like worthless stones. They are rivers with nowhere to run. They are dreams unfulfilled. Desires buried in the remains of an abandoned soul. They are the beauty of spring blinded by the snow storms of winter.

Soon they will see their beauty, their strength, their love and like the rivers flow into sea, they will unite as one. Then our voice will be more powerful than a gun and as we speak we'll get things done.

Grenades in their eyes and death is their prize. Peace will arise and destroy the lies.

(It's got to before it's too late.)

 

Men in Schools - for Boys


Dave Bolduc is a development coordinator, board member, and mentor for the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Virginia, Inc. (BTMVA). This group has been doing Rite of Passage (ROP) programs, Journeymen groups (for ROP weekend graduates), and group mentoring for boys since 2010. As a result, BTMVA already has a staff of volunteer, background-checked men who know how to work with young males. It was a natural next step for them to look at other ways to serve their community.

I spoke with Dave because the men of BTMVA have recently completed a site-based pilot program for boys at the local Tomahawk Creek Middle School. That pilot program consisted of BTMVA men, and occasionally Journeymen, being in a support group circle with selected boys from the school. It ran for an hour each week during the 2011-12 school years.

I really like the school-based model of supporting boys because it provides a perfect and regular location, supportive school teachers and other staff, access to parents, and especially because it solves the big problem of getting adolescent males all physically located in one place.

In the following interview, I asked Dave about the experience, how it got started, what did he learn, and most importantly, did it work for the men and boys involved.

Earl: How did you get connected with the Tomahawk Creek Middle School?

Dave: My partner just happens to be the Librarian at the school. She connected me with the Principal, who then put me in touch with the Assistant Principal who was the coordinator of their Leadership Development program. They all really liked the idea of a program that had adult men involved with their boys.

Earl: Once you got those connections, were there any major bureaucratic hurdles or approvals necessary to proceed?

Dave: Not really. Our own rigorous background checking process to screen men for our BTMVA program met their security needs. All of our participating men did fill out the school volunteer forms. The biggest early challenge was how to fit a group like ours into the school schedule.

Earl: So what did the pilot program look like and how did you select the boys?

Dave: We started out utilizing a block of time that was already allocated to their PACK program. PACK stands for Peers Acting with Care and Kindness. It’s a social skills development program, so our program was perfect for that slot. Our pilot program commitment was for the full school year, meeting on average three Wednesdays a month, from 8-9 AM. That time slot allowed for the men who could flex their work day to attend the morning sessions.

The boys for the pilot were recommended by the school’s teachers, counselors, and the Assistant Principal. Some were kids having behavioral issues or boys who the staff felt would most benefit from this experience. Twenty-four middle school boys, age 12-16, were initially selected.

Earl: Prior to launch did you have any communication with the parents of the recommended boys?

Dave: Yes. We put together a one-page overview of the program, and the Principal put a supportive cover letter on it and sent it to the parents. In the letter, the boys and parents were told our school-supervised program would include regular meetings with a variety of male role models who will, “. . . show up consistently, tell the truth about their struggles as men, ask the boys what kind of men they want to be, praise them for their unique gifts, support them when they screw up, and encourage them to become the good men they all want to be.” We explained that, in addition to the weekly meetings at school, there would also be a 48-hour Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend at the end of the program. The boys were invited to attend an initial meeting, and 22 out of 24 recommended boys showed up.

Earl: So how did that initial program go over?

Dave: Earl, you know how powerful these circles can be, especially for young guys who have never experienced honest, open, caring, and vulnerable men. We did our standard Journeyman Circle format with men and Journeymen speaking personal truth on topics we know are big for these kids. That had the boys wide-eyed and sitting on the edge of their seats.

Almost immediately, many of them began to participate and support each other. After that first circle, permission slips were handed out for the boys to take home, and thirteen boys came back the next week. A couple more showed up a few weeks later after hearing about the program from their peers.

Earl: How many men do you have anchoring these weekly groups?

Dave: We typically have 4-5 men who show up. Initially, there were three women counselors from the school, but after the second session, they (wisely) stepped out and recruited the male band teacher. He came to 90% of the sessions and added a lot.

Earl: Does each session have a specific content focus / topic or do you just go with what the young guys bring?

Dave: We do have a series of themes we are prepared to offer in a program that gradually ramps up the importance of the topics discussed in the circle. We know the issues these young guys are living with, like bullying, divorce, grief, drugs, and more, so we can target these topics if they don’t show up naturally.

It’s amazing though, how quickly this age group is willing to go deep. After hearing from men and Journeymen, the personal vulnerability bar quickly gets set pretty high. Just as beautiful is how naturally the boys in the circle pick up the ability to be supportive for each other. In every group there are moments when kids will offer verbal or other kinds of support for a peer who is struggling.

Next year we’ll have returning kids from this year’s group, who are comfortable in our circle, and they will have been through our powerful Rite of Passage weekend too. This will really help us to set the tone for the new kids. These guys really like belonging to a tribe where other men and boys can be trusted and have their back . . . where the really feel safe.

Being part of a support group that shares feelings and understands yours, having mentors to help you realize that you’re accountable for your actions, having a shoulder from a peer when you need one and being a shoulder for your friends to lean on...these are things that have been shown and validated to my son thru Boys To Men. He’s learned that people do care, it’s not just a bunch of talk. He now truly realizes that he’s never alone.

Christine B. (Jaired’s mom)

Earl: So how about sharing a few of your big lessons after your first year.

Dave: Well there are several.

At the top for me are how important it is that we did this at all. Like so much of this work, there have been huge gains for the kids, the school, families, and considerable impact on the men involved.

Getting enough time from the school to do the program is hard. The school has a lot of other important things to accomplish. With 15- 20 males in the group, we really needed more than an hour. We’re thinking that next year we’ll move to an evening program at the school. That way it’s still school-based, but we’ll have more time for fun and the important work in the circle. An evening time frame will also allow the boys going into high school to come back and continue to be part of the group.

Next time, we are going to put more energy into connecting with parents early on. We’ll meet with the parents once the boys are identified and have expressed interest in joining the group. We may hold an Open House at the beginning of the year, and then have additional gatherings during the year to keep the connection with parents strong. It will also give us another check on the boy's progress from the parental perspective. Community building is important in this work, and letting the parents make connections with other parents is a very good thing. It’s interesting to note that out of 14 boys we had in our group, only 4 of them were in stable, two parent households. There are a lot of parents who can use the support of a “tribe” too.

Finally, we’re going to do a more in-depth application package. We want more detailed parent contact information to do a better job of staying in contact with parents. We also want the permissions necessary from the parents to get more personal data on their boys from the school. In addition to knowing our young guys better, we can have approval for counselors to talk to us directly about their issues. In these ways, we’ll be even better equipped to give these kids the focused kinds of support they need.

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I’m thinking that Dave and other good men like him, showing up for all “our sons” in these school-based initiatives, could represent the vanguard of a powerful movement to change the trajectory of the lives of boys, families, schools, and our communities.

If you are inspired to get a few men together to do something similar, send me a note or send Dave Bolduc an email. You never know what a very large difference this small action by a few men might make!

You can download a PDF copy of this post on the Man-Making website.

SUBSCRIBE: 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 . Contact: Send Earl a message .

Take this quiz - Then Think About Becoming a Mentor


Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

Best Actor
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Best Actress
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
1.
2.

Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
1.
2.
3.

Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Easier? The lesson. The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life. "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia." Charles Schulz

Become a better father. Become a mentor. Volunteer where there's no recognition.

Sexism


For the past 25 years, I have been doing gender equity educational work in middle and high schools in Arizona. My interest in gender issues began in graduate school (mid-1970s) when I took a sociology course on gender. At that time was mostly about women/femininity with an occasional article on men/masculinity. After graduation I joined a men's group and also became aware of the small, pro-feminist, men's movement in the US. These involvements helped me realize both the political/power dimensions in gender relationships and, specifically, how men have been restricted and hurt by traditional gender roles.

Some of the beliefs and assumptions I was brought up with as a young man include: A) men have to be strong (physically and emotionally) and can't be vulnerable (such as asking for help or admitting you're scared/uncertain); B) the best way to handle conflict is by being (at the minimum) assertive, and (if need be) aggressive or violent; C) the best measure of success for men is money, power, and material possessions (including an attractive partner). My interest in your Man-Making website and blog grew out of a concern adult men may be unconsciously mentoring boys and young men in ways that perpetuate those views of manhood.

In my student presentations, I emphasize work, careers, and financial independence for girls/young women (traditional male roles) and I emphasize parenting and homemaking responsibilities and rewards for the boys/young men (traditional female roles). For both I encourage them to consider all the jobs/careers available to them, rather than restricting themselves to traditional male or female jobs/careers. I invite all men who are mentoring, or those with boys in your lives, to do the same. Watch for those subtle sexist messages in your exchanges with young men. - Tim Wernette

Building a Sweat Lodge


For the purposes of this essay, it will be assumed that the reader has some knowledge of what to do with a sweat lodge, how to do so, perhaps some experience in doing so,and a little bit of familiarity with the cultural and historical aspects of sweat lodge, so those topics won't be addressed here. Despite the prejudices of the extreme Christian right, sweat lodge is not demonic, satanic, etc. I know of no Native American sweat lodge practices which incorporate animal sacrifice, nor any other negative activities. I shall also assume that the reader has some basic idea of fire safety and common sense; if not, I strongly suggest you use someone else's lodge. Presumably you have selected a site distant from burnable structures, has some degree of privacy and security, etc. For other considerations, see ref (1).

References

1) Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths To Healing Ourselves and Our World, by Ed "Eagle Man" McGaa, HarperCollins Publications, 1990, pages 149-155.

2) Black Elk Speaks, by John G Neihardt, University of Nebraska Press, 1972

3) Lame Deer: Seeker of visions, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster,1994

Submitted by Tom Utterback at sagemenscircle@yahoo.com or www.sagesweatlodge.org or www.sagemenscircle.org


Performing the Sweat Lodge Ritual


The "Inipi", as the Lakota call it, or Sweat Lodge Ritual, is a Native American spiritual cleansing practice that dates back to prehistoric times. It not only has been practiced by nearly all the American tribes, but there is evidence that some variation may have been practiced by Celts, Australian aborigines, and others.

Theologians divide religions into two broad categories: "Earth-centered", or primitive practices based on belief in spirits that dwell in trees, rocks, animals, etc.; and "Revealed" religions, which are based on doctrine according to a Prophet. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. are all revealed religions. These are of relatively modern origin; by far the most widespread practice, and the most ancient, are the Earth religions, of which Sweat Lodge is one.

The common form of Sweat Lodge does rely on prayers to a single, over-all Creator, or God. It is believed that the spirit of the Creator dwells in all things, literally, and thus, all things are related, we are all brothers. The Lakota use the term, "Mitakuye Oyasin" to refer to this brotherhood of all creatures, trees, rocks, air, etc. References are provided below, for further interest.

God be with you. Tom Utterback

References

1. Mother Earth Spirituality-Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World, by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, HarperCollins Pubs, 1990.

2. Rainbow Tribe-0rdinary People Journeying on the Red Road, by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, HarperCollins Pubs, 1992

Submitted by Tom Utterback at sagemenscircle@yahoo.com or www.sagesweatlodge.org or www.sagemenscircle.org

Vision Quest


The Vision Quest, or "Hanblecheyapi" as the Lakota (Sioux) call it, has been a timeless ritual of identity seeking, participated in by Native American youth for countless ages. It requires nothing more than a place of solitude and one's own discipline. NOTE: The author is a middle-aged, white man. The intention of this piece is to provide preliminary information only. The author makes no claims to expertise, other than his own experience. Many more authoritative works are available in print, and on the Internet. See references below.

Reference 

Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World, by Ed "Eagle Man" McGaa, HarperCollins Pubs. 1990.

Submitted by Tom Utterback at sagemenscircle@yahoo.com or www.sagesweatlodge.org or www.sagemenscircle.org

See also Books, Youth Retreats

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If we don't mentor our young men, they will burn down the culture. - Michael Meade from Men and the Water of Life.

 You can make a difference!


Not only the Federal Government, but many corporations have reduced their charitable contributions in recent years. This means reduced services and in many cases, the elimination of services. Many men's services, like this one, are run out of our homes. We foot the bill because of our commitment to men, communities, families, relationships, etc. To keep going, and in many cases just to survive, volunteers are needed. If you have a few minutes, hours, days, one-time or over a longer period of time, there is a place that can use you. We can use you help. You might also check out our "Resource" directory under the category that looks most aligned with where you have been helped in the past, or where you would like to help now. We are also proud to be part of VolunteerMatch, a national nonprofit system that has listings for volunteers all over the country. You pick what suits you best. (They don't have a category for "men" yet, and we're working on them.) Below, you can search for opportunities that you can do from home, like the opportunities we have. And it also lists opportunities within a mile of your zip code, 6 miles, 20 miles, etc. What have you done lately?  It's never to late to start!

He Played the Game


His e-mail was filled with the quiet despair of a man who never had learned how to ask for help.

He was, he related, a man of my generation. A man who had been a husband, a father, a businessman. A man who had played the game by the rules as he, and most men of our generation, understood them. And now, he says, "I have lost."

His wife died more than a dozen years ago. His kids are grown. He no longer works. He has lost contact with his friends and acquaintances.

"I can't help but have the feeling that all my life I have worked to further myself for the benefit of my family, but now they are gone. So what does it matter?  I have played the game by the rules and I have lost."

He has considered, he wrote, all the standard answers. None of them has helped.

"I have stopped my volunteer work, nor do I attend church anymore. I do not exercise, play sports, entertain friends nor family, travel or do anything in which I once found so much enjoyment.

"Some people have said I should talk to someone, go see a doctor, do something. I find that easier said than done. I have always been the strong one, the leader, the quiet influence behind the scene.

"So whom do I talk to?  My children? They call me for support when they think of who can help them. My doctor?  He will think I'm some whiny old guy crying sour grapes. I'm sorry, but I have always been from that generation that said: If you have a problem, you fix it. My problem is that I have this problem, and for the first time in my life, I don't know how to fix it."

I have neither the credentials nor the temperament to deal with the problems of others. I have a low tolerance for self-pity. An impatience with whiny old guys. My approach to my problems, and to the problems of others, has been pretty much the same as his. Pretty much the same as for most men of our generation. If you have a problem, you fix it. We were the generation of men who never asked for help. And we took pride in that.

But if age does snot automatically give you wisdom, it sometimes helps you find empathy. And, if I do not have answers for the man who is asking "now what?" at least I understand what he is saying.

My guess is that there are a lot of men in our generation who are, or soon will be, asking "now what?"  Men wondering if they have lost. Men raised to play the game by the rules who now have discovered that the rules have changed and the scoreboard has lied. That the things that were supposed to be important turned out not to be.

There are, I'm sure, plenty of women with the same unanswered questions. Women whose husbands have died and whose children have gone and who wonder "now what?" But they seem better at coping when the rules of the game change. More likely to have a circle of friends. Less likely to worry that a doctor will consider them old and whiny if they ask for help.

As a man who also as raised to believe that if you have a problem, you fix it, I have no answers for the e-mail writer.

Maybe the best I can do is to let him know that he is not alone. That one man's quiet despair might just be the echo of an entire generation of men.

Source: Tribune Media Services. D. L. Stewart (59) is a columnist for the Dayton Daily News. Write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N Michigan Ave, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. E-mail him.

 

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