Mr. Carr was dying.
“Come with me to visit him,” the preacher invited.
Sitting in his overly warm living room, the ailing gentleman rallied to sit upright in his recliner and pajamas. I was twenty-three. He was eighty-three.
“Mr. Carr,” I had a flash of genius, “Looking back at when you were my age, what bit of advice would you now have for yourself?”
He thought, rifling through four decades of experiences, decisions, mistakes and regrets, then clearing his throat spoke weakly but clearly, “Keep it simple, Steve. Keep it simple.”
Learning from the experienced is a golden commodity, but for many men, wise sages like Mr. Carr aren’t available. Not everyone has a mentor or a wise father they can turn to with their concerns and questions about stuff they are going through like raising kids, leading a family, dealing with work, and making ends meet. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if someone who had successfully navigated his life would offer the wealth of his learning’s to you?
I don’t recall my dad and I having deep or meaningful ‘man-to-man’ talks. I lost him when I was only 17, and his addictions kept him preoccupied or away from our home most of my earliest years. To be fair, his father hadn’t done any better for him. The two things Dad did teach me, and for which I am VERY grateful, was to work hard and to have compassion for the underdog. Everything else had to be filled in by outsiders. Deep insights for life from mentors like Mr. Carr were rich and welcome contributions to me.
Things were different with my children. I often took my kids aside and had little talks with them. When they were very young, maybe under 6 or 8, I preferred to sit in a recliner (I wonder why?). Cuddling them in my lap created a cozy and private room. From that tiny space, I had a stage and an audience of one. With their full attention, I used my words to shape their hearts and their futures. “I’m proud of you Hannah. Today, I saw you help Mom take care of Joshua. You’re a good helper and you’re going to be a great mom someday, you know that?”
These days, my children have their own children, but we still have private talks. I sometimes call, though I prefer face to face. Often, I invite them to meet me for coffee, or breakfast at a restaurant. When they are home visiting, I ask them to sit with me out on the porch swing, “Hey, let’s go have a seat outside and visit a minute.” I still have that platform with them and my audience still listens. “Son, you’re doing a great job with your kids, and I’m proud of you for how sweetly you speak to your wife. Life with little ones can be a really tough season when sleep is broken, but it’ll pass. Things never stay the same. They will grow out of that diaper stage and you’ll sleep through the night (or most of it) again. Hang in there. Keep your marriage first and stay prayerful.”
Having someone come alongside who can relate to our situation or help us know if we’re even on the right track is the energy we need sometimes. A person we trust to whom we can bring our questions and concerns can put us back in the fight for another day. I had a few of those men cross my path as a younger man, and I remember the lessons they taught me even to this day. They shaped my life.
Fathers, mentors, and older gentlemen with wisdom and humility are worth more than degrees and certificates when it comes to the practical living of life. This is why I’ve decided to take the blog at manabouts.com in that direction. I’ll write, my sons will write, and we will invite others to write who will bring the rich and condensed lessons of their lives to our readers. If you value hearing from men who’ve walked your path or other guys in your shoes too, then you are invited to bring your coffee, come out on the porch and grab a seat with us a few minutes each a week. We’ll cheer for you, listen to you, and give you our best. And I promise — thanks to Mr. Carr –to make sure we keep it simple.