There’s a young man today who needs a word of encouragement and he is waiting on you.
If not you, then who?
Looking back upon my adolescent years, I realized that I desperately needed another man in my life. I yearned for someone to believe in me and tell me. I quietly wished for someone to show me the way and sometimes walk beside me so I could see real life in action. I wanted to know that my masculinity and identity were both in tact and that my life was headed in the right direction. I needed a mentor. I didn’t know it at the time and they didn’t see it.
They didn’t see it, maybe because they thought I had it all together. I had a wonderful mom and I was doing well in school. I was an introvert and so maybe they couldn’t read my heart but down deep inside it was screaming “love me,” “know me,” “believe in me.” I kept the hurt, self-hate, and frustrations deep inside.
I often dreaded recess in sixth grade. It was that time of day when we weren’t required to be in the classroom with others unlike us. This was the time of day when everyone gravitated to those who were most like themselves. Everyone seemed to gravitate to their group while there were a few of us too scared to say hello. We would just try to hide or blend in. However, there were those few days that someone came up with the “brilliant” idea that everyone should play a game of kickball together – everyone.
Team captains would be chosen from our elite sixth grade athletic “medalists.” The powerful and strong would be selected first, often followed by the attractive females who had to be dazzled by the team leaders’ exquisite participant choices of course. Then there was me and the other guy or girl. We were the non-athletic and ungainly, the quiet and the divergent, the last and the listless. Every once in a while, there would be that cordial kid who didn’t want to make me feel bad, give me a wink, and say “I’ll take him. He’s cool.” That would have been more comforting if there had been more than two amateurs left to pick from and by cool, I’m pretty sure he meant “not too hot.”
I always felt like a misfit. I was often called a wimp. Even if it wasn’t entirely true, I felt like no one cared. No one really knew what I was feeling inside. I felt alone and I felt unwanted. My dad was never around and my mom was struggling with so much hurt that I didn’t want to bother her with my questions and worriment. All I wanted was to be was chosen.
Perhaps I did know that I was craving someone who would care. Maybe I knew what it was that I needed but instead of asking for help, I decided to encourage others. At the age of sixteen, I began reaching out to those younger than me and started leading a Wednesday night program at the church to try and help them feel wanted and loved. I was applauded for my efforts and I gave my all but my heart was still lonely. I would give away the smiles and then return home to cry myself to sleep.
What I truly desired was a personal role model. I longed for an older man to step into my life and breathe into me a fusion of beauty and strength, self worth and sacrifice, laughter and tears. I needed a mentor.
They didn’t see it. I didn’t know it.
Do you see it? Can you not see the brokenness and anguish around you: your son, your student, your neighbor, your grandson? They may not know it yet but they are in need of an older man who cares and tells them and shows them the way. What can you do to make a difference? The first step is seeing it. Seeing is believing and belief leads us to action. We all long to be chosen. There’s a young man today who needs a word of encouragement and he is waiting on you. If not you, then who? Then when?
They didn’t see it. I didn’t know it.
Originally appeared at Not a Male Fail.com