From Jerry Hancock, executive director of Men In Balance, a Cornelius nonprofit that helps men in their spiritual journeys:
Could your mentoring a young boy avoid a future massacre? Read on.
My father died when I was just 10 years old. As devastating as that was, it was made more tolerable by the “substitute dads” I developed in my neighborhood and church. It’s hard to say whether I initiated those contacts or they did, but the fact is numerous men took an interest in my situation and helped me learn the important lessons that a boy needs in becoming a man.
I can’t help but wonder had the Connecticut shooter had such a mentor, would his life have turned out differently?
I don’t remember being particularly angry about my plight of being without a father, but I do remember how foreign it sounded to hear other children talk about what their fathers did for them at Christmas. I remember feeling injustice that I did not have a father and all of my friends did. Plus I had lost an older brother just two years earlier. I suppose it is possible that without helpful men, I could have nursed this grudge into unhealthy, antisocial responses. Fortunately that was not to be.
If you know a young boy without a male role model in his life, make it your business to include him in whatever you may be doing. It could be as simple as repairing the picnic table or as involved as accompanying the family on a vacation. I’m convinced that many young boys have no one to show them what it’s like to be a man, or even how to behave in social situations. (It is nice that mothers try to do this, but it is a lot more effective coming from a man.)
Here are some simple things you can do to help a young boy:
• invite him to dinner with your family
• invite him to church or Sunday school
• share with him whatever talents you may have, such as playing a musical instrument or refinishing furniture
• buy him a book that deals with becoming a man
• invite him on a family vacation
• take him with you when you have to return to work on the weekend
• get him involved in Scouts or other activities for boys, and pay the expenses
• when you’re with him, talk about the lessons you’ve learned in becoming a man
• talk to him about his grades and offer encouragement and reward for improvement
• find out about his interests and hobbies and provide books or websites that support them
• remember his birthday by taking him out for a hamburger and some conversation
Most importantly, in whatever contact you have with this person, ask about his feelings and how he sees the world. Where it is appropriate, redirect his thinking to more positive approaches, and show him through life examples how collaborative approaches and open dialogue lead to better relationships.
I have no way of knowing how the men who mentored me felt about their role. Where it is possible I have thanked them or their descendents for the role they played in my life. I have tried to pay forward the same approach in my relationships with boys, but it is all too easy to find excuses such as lack of time. But one thing is for certain: My life could have been very different without the influence of spiritually strong, caring men.