Mentor Me

make the big time where you are.

-frosty westering, football coach, pacific lutheran university (1972-2003)

several months ago, i had the privilege to spend some time with some young men and women who were mentoring other young people (teenagers) through a local faith community (one of the most amazing faith communities i’ve ever had the blessing to be a part of — upper room community, minneapolis).  the young people they were mentoring were adolescent boys and girls.  for my part, i spent the majority of the time with the male leaders.  we talked about what it means to be a man in our world today, specifically in american society, and how to teach and guide young boys–so that, they will be great men one day.  it was a really great opportunity, to sit with these male mentors–to hear from them and to talk about doing life together in this way (they are a really awesome group of committed men, i can tell you–and the boys they work with are lucky have these kind of guys in their corner)!  as a part of the time together, we viewed the first 25 minutes of the video, tough guise 2–it’s about the challenges and struggles that men face today, the expectations and pressures imbedded in our society, and what it means to be a man in america–and what we teach all boys and men in our society.  what is the core message of the video? to bring awareness to mainstream society’s ‘tough guise’ posture–which teaches boys and men to never back down, to never show weakness, to be able to dole out verbal abuse at a moment’s notice, and to use violence as the “go to” for resolving just about any problem or conflict–shtuff that can be really damaging to the world at large–trust me, i teach criminal justice for a living 😉  the video is based on research done by sociologist jackson katz and it is very thought-provoking, to say the least.  all in all, good things to think about if you are teaching, raising, or guiding boys today.  especially, in a faith community, where the emphasis and importance in how you live your life can and should challenge the expectations and  goals of each individual–as well as the very fabric of our society--to the good!

after we watched the video clip and discussed some of the challenges of being a man in america–and being a christian man at the same time–one mentor asked…

how do we teach this stuff to the kids we mentor?

well, you’re probably doing it already.  by showing up every week, hanging out with a teenager, spending time talking to them, that’s huge right there…how many men do that every week?! 

then, i told them three things:

1. teach from what you know. in your twenty plus years of life, you’ve had experiences that can be meaningful to these young men.  you know the pressures and expectations that our society puts on boys and men–because you’ve lived it (at least in some way, shape, or form).  now, technology has changed the game.  because of social media and phones and instant messaging–the stakes are higher for these boys.  the pressure is more intense and unrelenting today.  kids can’t escape the shtuff that they once left behind at school (peer pressure, bullying, harrassment, etc).  it follows them, everywhere.  that makes what you’re doing every week even more important.  your ‘being here’ is big time.  and, the fact that you (a young, cool adult) are showing up in these kids’ lives every week is most likely because you know that there’s more to the story than what the world gives us, at least you hope there is.  so, you’re already heading in the right direction. run with that.

[teacher’s note: in my opinion, every single man in america should watch the video ‘tough guise 2’ (and read everything they can by jackson katz).  it gets at the core issues of how we teach some really harmful things to men in our world today, while still giving men room to think about things without thinking the worst about themselves.  importantly, to know that you can still be a tough, gritty man–without harming those around you.  from a faith perspective, a lot of what the world teaches boys and men, is pretty much the complete opposite of the life of Jesus–and in that space and tension, understanding and change is waiting to happen.]

2. don’t lie.  one of the quickest ways to undermine the rapport you are building, and ultimately, your own self–is to lie.  hard to recover from that.  be as honest as you can be within the bounds the experience–share as appropriate.

[teacher’s note: most kids can sense bullshit before most adults do.  and since we’re all human, we’ve all lied.  some of us are really, really good at it.  but, it can be really destructive.  so, tell the truth–as much as you can, as often as you can.

and, to be honest, some kids want to know more about you and your personal shtuff than is appropriate–just tell ’em: no comment, or that’s personal to me, or some things are just for my family — because, get this, they don’t get to know some things.  gotta have those boundaries.  at the same time, honesty and directness go a long way with kids.  especially, when there’s already so much bullshit floating around out there in the world.]

3. spend time around men who are older than you on a regular basis.  older than me, too, for that matter;)  i’m talking grandfather types. if we’re only relying on each other, people who are our peers, then we’re in trouble.

[teacher’s note: one of the ways men get into trouble is by just relying on themselves or their friends/peer groups for guidance.  if we are just around other guys who…look and act like us, who are the same age us, who just have the same experiences as us–then we reinforce those same things–and some of these things aren’t at all healthy for ourselves and the world at large.  and, because of that, we can mislead the young men we’re working with because we ourselves have been misled.  unfortunately and nowadays, we often think that our peers are the best ones to lead and guide us.  that is wrong thinking.  today, we are not often enough around our elders.  we intentionally and deliberately abandon and sequester them away in rest homes and care centers.  and, in isolating them–and us–we are missing out on some of the most important generational learning and wisdom that can be passed down and exchanged.  honestly, these people need to be around and among us–and we need to be around and among them, regularly!]

Last, I finished off by telling them that this job doesn’t require that they are perfect, that they are doing a really good thing for these kids–and that most of what we’re talking about with ‘men in the world today’ is about awarenessso, keep doing the good job you’re doing, but keep ‘what we talked about’ on the forefront of your minds as well!

Honestly, speaking with these men about this stuff was one the of the highlights of the past year.  Kudos to them and to the church staff for the chance to have this kind of conversation!  I wish communities everywhere could have these kinds of discussions–they’re big time!

*A special thanks to my friend, the Rev. Katie Sanders, for her great leadership of these mentors and for inviting me into this time and topic–thank you so much, it was an honor and a privilege!!!  How many years have we be talking about doing this?!  At least three?!  Additionally, it was a pleasure to team with my friend, Jeannette Vickman, a strong woman and professional counselor, who led the breakout time with the women (which, based on what I saw from the puffy-red eyes of the women in the crowd…was a success!;)–great to work with you!!!  Cheers!!!

what we see

during the television broadcast of an nfl playoff game, the camera focused in on the cheerleaders…and so, my son and i focused in on the cheerleaders…then, he spoke…

my son: they must be cold.

[flash]

me: i reckon so.

[in an instant, forty-five years of living as a man in the world flashed through my mind; when he said that, i scanned through all of the thousands of pieces of social data, experience, and history i had seen and heard over the years (everything i knew)…that led to this very moment–where young women were standing there, in front of the world, in a strip of clothing–so much to say and no words, for my six-year-old son–so, deliberately, i tucked this moment away in my mental files and stacks, in the section called, “father/son conversations“–and thought, we will talk about this again, son–oh yes, we will talk about this again!]

lessons in love (for my son)

it’s taken me nearly 44 years on the planet to understand what it means to love a woman…here’s some of what i’ve learned, jack…because you might want to know what that might mean for you–if “loving a woman” is something you want to do, or choose to do yourself someday–if not, that’s another conversation we can have–regardless of what path you take–know that you’ll get the same love and embrace from your old man, cheers!

  1. know yourself…take time to examine and evaluate the things that you’ve said and done…learn from the past…sometimes your heart gets broken because of things they’ve done…but, sometimes it gets broken because of things you’ve done–from the way you’ve been living in the world, guaranteed.
  2. love yourself…see and “believe in” the good that’s in you…no man can have love for another person while at the same time despising himself.
  3. let her know that she’s your queen…court her, pursue her intentionally (and in a healthy/’law-abiding manner’)…listen to her, show up in her life when it counts, give a timely gift, treat her right, woo her–to win her over and beyond!!!
  4. women are not disposable objects that were put on the earth to please and entertain you, son–treat them with love and respect…’call out’ men who don’t.
  5. only say, “i love you” if you really mean it…those words carry a lot of weight.
  6. balance – if all you’re doing is spending time with your “special one”…then, that’s a problem …now, if you’re anything like your old man, when you do fall for someoneyou will fall hard…it’s gonna happen…and you’re gonna lose your mind for a minute (at this time, you will most likely start to see cartoon versions of blue birds flying around and chirping as you randomly and uncontrollably burst into song–zippity doo dah day!)…it’s o.k., it’s a good thing to have those feelings and emotions–but, don’t forget to share your time and love with your friends and family, too!
  7. date one person at a time.
  8. reciprocity – no romance is 100% fair or equal…but, most good ones get close–if you’re doing all the work, making plans, showing up in her life, etc…and she’s “phoning it in” and “treating you bad” — that’s a red flag, son–so, cut her loose, “break it off” and move on.
  9. don’t play games – if you’re not “into her” or “not feeling it”–have the balls to tell her that to her face (never “break it off” by text or email) and move on.
  10. when your heart gets broken, and it will–(privately) share your pain with those “select few” family members and friends you trust; you will know who they are–not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing this shtuff–they will be there for you; and keep your distance from her–physically, socially, online, phone, etc…trying to pursue her beyond this point doesn’t do a damn bit of good and makes you look like an idiot.
  11. and if/when you “mess it up” (in how you’ve treated her)…step up, be a man, own it–and apologize for the harm you’ve caused.
  12. sometimes, “i’m sorry” doesn’t cut it…and what happens is a product of not knowing yourself and not dealing with yourself and your shit (this one goes a lot to #1, but probably pops up at other points as well)–because eventually, your shit will rise to the surface – – my shit has a long history of flying out sideways  🙂  [if some of your issues keep resurfacing, keep coming up…then, have faith, be brave, and do the right hard thing–talk to a trained professional counselor–someone who is qualified to advise you and who doesn’t have an axe to grind].
  13. you can talk to me, too…anytime, anyplace…in joy, in pain, in exuberance, in sadness, and in all those “in-between” times…you can ask me anything–and i mean anything…i’ve been there, believe me…and i’m still here, i’m still standing.
  14. trust God, trust the process.

i love you, son.

dad

[this is the tip of the iceberg for the things that i hope to impress upon my son regarding this topic (as he gets older), most of the other things “not listed here” are not for public consumption–they are private matters, personal ones, that are just for me and jack–but today, you get a glimpse behind the curtain…so, enjoy–and have a happy valentine’s day!]

(keep going out) where the wild things are…

“the core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.”
-jon krakauer

this summer has had its share of adventures (some planned, some unexpected)…in fact, i was just telling my wife that this has been one of the most action-packed summers of our life together…from road trips to utah and chicago, to camping at state parks around minnesota…i feel like we could’ve run our own outfitting group for travel adventures-

dett-fitters…

not only that, but my friend (nate) and i were able to take a long-awaited canoe trip down the southern part of the st. croix river…we had been talking about taking the trip off-and-on for the past 4 years…but, we both had experienced the arrival of our own children during that time–four children (two each), all told…so, i guess it wasn’t surprising that the trip wasn’t realized until just this summer?!

honestly, i’ve always loved the outdoors…but, i’ve been inspired, once again, by just how excited my children get when we go camping, especially, when we get the tent out…their sense of wonder is completely and absolutely unmatched…it is awesome…so, i was fired-up and determined to make the canoe trip happen this summer–and it was clear that nate was, too…

and as awesome as it was to have all those earlier adventures with my wife and kids…there was something equally as awesome (albeit different) about taking an overnight canoe trip with my friend…we put in at the osceola landing–after hitting the local pizza buffet and downing a couple of miller lites (it was 11am–so, that’s a good start right there)…we headed down the st. croix…the water was the perfect temperature, so we stopped a couple of times to get out and swim near some sand bars…afterwards, we continued on, stopping about 12 miles down to set up camp…after swimming and relaxing by the campsite the sun started to set…so, we went about our chores–and with a good campfire going, we had a hearty, man-made dinner of steak, potatoes and beans–and jack and cokes, of course (that dinner was tasty…and a bit nicer than what you’d get on your average outdoor trip, but hey, it was one night and we could pack the canoe!)… eventually, the fire faded, so we hung up our food and anything else that was “scented” (to keep the wild things away) and hit the hay…

the next morning, we woke to another sunny day…and a deer…checking out our campsite…just 10 feet away …it was unafraid…and, what an amazing sight?!  before breakfast, i had to make a run to the “bathroom”…so, with my trowel and tp in hand i walked a good distance from our site…i dug my hole and took care of business…there’s nothing better to test your mettle than “poopin’ in the woods” (i had to dig my hole pretty fast, too–it was coming!;) …anyways, after i shook out my leg cramp from my “yogi squat*”, i covered my hole with dirt and left no trace behind…i took care of the tp in our “burn can” (a new trick we learned), washed my hands, and relaxed as nate prepared breakfast–i was on dinner duty…

[*yes, i know what a “yogi squat” is…because i took a few yoga classes with my wife this summer…apparently, i need a few more classes, if i’m still getting leg cramps when crouching;)]

after a filling campfire omelette–eggs, cheese, and sausage in foil…and coffee…we took it easy and lounged a bit before hitting the river again…

all packed up and on the river, we continued south…we enjoyed the paddle and the conversation–it was good to be able to catch up on life…just “us men” and the open river…what a great trip it had been…

nate and i on the river

nate and i on the river

but, like all trips, there is a beginning and an end (or, at least, “until next time”)…and, after another 8 miles or so, we reached our destination–the boom site landing near stillwater, mn…

after loading up the canoe and gear, picking up the second vehicle near osceola, we returned to nate’s house to ‘break-down’ and claim our individual supplies…after a few words, we shook hands and went back to our everyday lives…

a few days later, when i was back at home, i thought…

it is important for men to do such things together, to have adventures together, to wonder…once again…at the world.

this father’s day…verse 1

i was thinking that…

fathers and sons don’t say i love you all that often…

i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve told my dad i love him…i’m 42 years-old, people…that should give you an idea about the scope of this kind of thing…

but, just because we don’t say it all that often…or as often as women and mothers do…it doesn’t mean that we don’t have that kind of love for each other…

when i was growing up, my dad was the provider and protector for our family–in the traditional sense–with my mom at home with us most of the time, taking the lead in the child rearing…my dad was there for us (my sister and i)…but just in a different way…

among men…love is most certainly revealed in the act of doing something together…and so it was with me and my dad…whether we were kicking a soccer ball, going to a movie, watching a sporting event, completing a household project, taking a road trip, or having a catch…or even, just sitting side by sidesaying nothing

it was in those little every day interactions and activities together that i knew my dad loved me…

so, thank you, dad…for being there, for doing stuff with me (and chris)…

and though it’s understood, though it’s known…let me tell you, let me say it ‘out loud’ (nearly)…

i love you, i always have…

 

 

ryan

so, ryan asked me…

hey, mr. d….would it be o.k. if i asked melanie (his girlfriend) to prom during your last hour?

i agreed…saying…

sure, what do you have in mind?

what he “had in mind” was this…

ryan showed up to my last class of the day…and i introduced him as a guest speaker that would be presenting on adolescents and alcohol…it fit with what we were doing…and right away, when he came in the door–melanie looked up, surprised…the look on her face said…what is he doing in class?! (i think it was the most attentive i’ve seen her all year;)

he went through his presentation (he had made up a power point that i ‘previewed’ earlier)…he talked about ‘the dangers of alcohol use for teenagers’ and ‘how we see increases in use around the time of prom’… then, he said…

given all these dangers…there’s just one question i have…melanie, will go to prom with me?

she got up, said “yes” and gave him a hug…the class erupted in applause… and, after what seemed like an eternity…i said, you can stop hugging now

[thought i might have to call a code purple…’unauthorized public display of affection’ ;)]

i share this story not because of how it relates to prom…because depending on your perspective and/or your child’s high school experience, prom may or may not be a positive social ritual/tradition for your teenager…

but, i share this story for another reason…i share this story because of what ryan did, because of how he treated his girlfriend…because of his boldness (it takes courage to do that kind of thing in front of a group of students you don’t know)…

he put in work...he took the time to come up with a creative way to ask her to prom; he took the time to think about her…and, i think it was even more significant because she was his girlfriend…the look on her face was priceless, i could tell (at that moment) that he had succeeded in making her feel special…because of the love and respect he demonstrated…

i congratulated him later and said, ‘good work, young man’…

it’s important to hold up these stories, to celebrate these moments…

because there are a lot of guys out there who wouldn’t even think of doing something like that; there are a lot of guys out there who just expect things from girls…like they’re entitled to it…

but, they’re not…they need to put in workshow love and respect…like ryan did…

 

joe

joe has been in my class for two years (the curriculum is set up so that you can take four semesters of criminal justice if you want to (and if your schedule “allows”)…

joe is a rarity among adolescent boys in today’s world…

because joe is the real deal; little about joe is a “front” or “false”…he possesses real self-confidence and bearing and maturity…and holds a worldview that, while not perfect, is truly positive…

joe has the potential to be a great man…

a few weeks back, i told the students that we would be watching freedom writers in class as a part of that week’s lesson (as a teacher, it is a truly inspirational tale–erin gruwell did some amazing work with those kids!)…a movie which usually gets groans from the boys, especially in a criminal justice class…and there was a groan that was voiced by one of the guys…but, joe cut it off…instantly…saying…

dang, d….you’re getting all inspirational on me now…it’s a good movie…makes me want to volunteer and donate all my money to the community…

he was saying it in a very awesome way, kind of giving me a hard time…but, mostly lending his positive support to the movie choice…legitimately so…and the other guys got on board with it too…they got on board with it because joe said it, because joe is a leader…to the positive…

not in some cheap-ass, rose-colored, leave it to beaver way…but, with gravitas (a word i’ve never used to describe a teenage boy before;)…and because he can communicate in that way, he can speak with some authority to his peers…in a way that immediately wins them over…

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another…

it is something that i’ve appreciated all year–and especially, during this year…one that’s been really tough, one where i’ve been ‘on the ropes’ more than not…

but, joe’s been there (many times)…in my corner, and i can pretty much guarantee that i wouldn’t have made it this far without him…

in a couple of months, when he graduates…i plan on shaking his hand and telling him…

thanks for ‘having my back’ this year, i appreciate it…keep on keepin’ on… with ‘what you’re doing’…you’re a good man…you give me hope…

big e

outside of my father, there are a handful of men that have been and continue to be (in some cases) mentors to me…i consider it an honor and a privilege to have known these men…because they are…

men who have made me a better man…

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another…

one of “my guys” is affectionately known as “big e”…his real name is rev. eric olsen…and he runs luther heights bible camp in the sawtooth wilderness (in central idaho)…he’s been the camp pastor/director there for more than 20 years…i was fortunate enough to have worked closely with eric over the span of 6 summers…a short, but highly potent and influential time in my maturity…

the term “big e” is fitting because he is a big guy…nature made him that way…he’s the kind of guy who can crush boulders with his bare hands and pull fully grown pine trees out of the ground without breaking a sweat…

ever hear of paul bunyan? this guy trained paul bunyan, folks…

no, but seriously…

you won’t see him on the front cover of a magazine or hear about him on twitter…but he’s the kinda guy you should see and hear about there …because he’s a good man, a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others…and when you’re around him this is unmistakably clear…

you won’t know what he’s about by what he says, he speaks sparingly after all…

you’ll know it by what he does…

by his faith…he lives it out every day…

by the way he treats people…the kindness and love he shares with his family, the staff, the campers, the supporting congregations and individuals from those churches…

by the way he works…whether balancing the books, repairing a leaky roof, rebuilding a trail, building a new cabin, raising money for the camp, or digging out the composting toilet…(yes, he’s the camp pastor/director…but, he doesn’t leave the grunt work to someone else…he doesn’t shy away from the dirty jobs)…

working alongside big e is a lesson unto itself…if you can keep up, you can learn a lot…

so, thank you, eric…for everything…you made a difference in my life…you gave me trust, responsibility, and most of all–grace (and there was more than one time when i needed that;)…for a ‘gentle giant’…you were a powerful presence in my life and in the lives of many other people…and i know i’m better for knowing you…

cheers! peace. dett.

 

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