I’ve been thinking about Father’s Day. I recently had a conversation about a young man who is floundering just a bit, not really finding his way in the world, and the person I was talking to finally said, with some level of exasperation, “The thing is, no one has ever taught him how to be a man.”
It’s a complicated thing, being a man. It ranges from moving the boiling teapot from the front burner to the rear when the grandkids are over, to the barely suppressed snarl when you read a news article about a pedophile or child abuser. It means you obsess over things like whether the spare tire has enough air and if there’s enough money set aside for a college education. And the thing is, there isn’t very much of what it takes to be a man that you can learn on your own. It’s the sort of thing you have to observe.
There are places in the United States where 70% of the boys, on a regular basis, are growing up without an adult man in their lives. I can’t imagine that. When I was growing up I had a wide assortment of role models. A father, two grandfathers, uncles, guys in the church, some men who spent their spare time sipping beer and playing cards in the cool darkness of the pool hall, and my dad’s Masonic brothers. No end of influences and I learned something from every one of them, absorbed lessons through my skin, because no one ever said, “Now pay attention; this is how a man acts.”
For instance, one of my dad’s Masonic brothers was a man named Simes Harrison. He owned the Minneapolis Moline dealership in town.
For those of you of the city persuasion, Minneapolis Moline was a brand of tractor. It’s been out of business since about 1974.
Anyway, in January of 1962, Simes had a fire which destroyed the roof on his shop. The guys in the lodge got together, brought in their own equipment, and cleaned up the mess. They also put a new roof on and did it all in one day. It’s the sort of story that can improve with time, except I read a letter Simes wrote in March of 1962. It was addressed to a children’s hospital, explaining his rather substantial contribution. You see, he’d figured out what it would have cost to hire a crew to do the work on his shop and then contributed that same amount of money to charity. In the letter he said, “In as much as I appreciate beyond words of expression the help I received, I do believe however that kindness of this kind should be considered not as a gift, but as a loan, something to be passed on to others.”
It wasn’t something that anyone asked him to do - or expected him to do.
He just thought it was the kind of thing a man would do.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a father in your life, feel free to show him this. Then tell him, “Thanks, and happy Father’s Day.”
Copyright 2011 Brent Olson