As we focus on the inauguration of our President and a holiday set aside for Martin Luther King Jr., a man representing courage, I’m thinking about leadership and what it means for me, to parent my boy into a man. 


What do I need to tell my son about being a man? It’s what I think about as I stare at the single candle flickering in front of my brothers 8 X 10, a tight frame capturing his far-away eyes. Sometimes I know by looking, just a glimpse in the eyes, about the tale of the soul.

The way I knew her marriage wasn’t well the day she walked up to the swivel chair and looked at me in the mirror. The way I knew his heart hurt when he crawled into the passenger seat after school.

My brother’s eyes changed after he drove his mother’s car off the bridge that night.  It was my week of the summer to be his sister in real life.  After I went back home to my mother, the sibling relationship, it became a paragraph in books of stories I never read.

His body crosses into eternal, drugs invade like a thief with a key to the front door. I still remember the boy I called brother in footed pajamas, scooping chocolate refrigerator pie into his mouth at the kitchen table.

The day we got the call about my brother’s death, my son shoved four friends into lake water, blew out candles on thirteen and grew hair in new places.

And somewhere between their two lives, waves a prairie of pages scattered like tumbleweed.  Pages on the wisdom of manhood I’m collecting like a book in my mind to give to my son when he crosses the threshold.

Paragraphs that tell you how a woman will love a man deep, when he stands up for what is right and true, despite the pain of rejection and risk of reputation.

Being honorable to the watching world is more appealing than being honored. Because when you love people more than a big house, your golf score and the size of your biceps, you’ll settle into your spot in the world. The address of Fulfilled spelled out on the mailbox.

When voices shout for you to join the club of doing in order to succeed, there will pages of prose reminding you that success listens to the whisper of being.

Because affirmation, the kind that sticks like gum on the bottom of your shoe, it doesn’t happen with the applause of crowds.  It cheers from an audience of One.

And that One, He wept and asked for help from twelve people with weaknesses, just like you.

I’ll bind the strewn pages of manhood, string them tear stained leather. Slide them into your suitcase when you aren’t looking.  And perhaps when you turn around to wave goodbye, I’ll have the privilege of hearing the mother’s heart song in your eyes. Look into the reservoir that tells the tale of the soul and embrace the silence.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. today, a man with a legacy of courageous leadership, what advice would you give a boy growing into manhood?

A repost from September 2012.