We were sitting on the patio of a local restaurant eating our dinner and watching the kids play on a community playground. There was one slide toy that was a pipe like element with handles. The kids could hold the handles and slide across an open area to a platform then push off and return. It is a cool component on the playscape. But what caught my eye was one boy, a bit taller than the rest. He kept taking turns and not letting the other little kids have a go. I sat there with my beautiful wife, a nice dinner, shaded breeze and that little guy just got under my skin. I was getting angry and considering my options.
Scientific fact, if you gather a group of boys together lead by a bunch of men who love to engage their own boyish hearts, things will happen. For the most part moms won’t understand it. “Don’t roughhouse, be nice, stop running,” are the cries of a mother. “Good jump, I am going to tackle you, you will be okay,” are the proud comments of the man. At least, that should be the way a man reacts. Edgy, fierce, with a slight tint of bravado and challenge. Many of our boys today, the statistic says half, are without that male role model in their lives. They get the softer side, the sensitive side but that is it. Many act out as bullies because they have a built up sense of who they are they can’t define in a healthy way.
Look at so many of the commercials today. In one the ceiling has fallen in from a broken water pipe in their home and the young couple are standing there looking at it. The young husband says, “I think I can fix that.” The wife laughs as she walks away to call the insurance company. In the next scene they are in the same place looking up at the repaired ceiling. The young man says, “I think I could have fixed that.” The young lady begins laughing as she turns and walks away. The heart of a young man crushed. Another commercial is of young boys with a flat tire on the side of the road at night. Both boys are bewildered and lost in the situation. They are portrayed as dumb and dumber. Who wrote those commercials? Society beats down our men and boys.
“In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy’s journey to manhood: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women,” John Eldredge, Wild at Heart.
One Saturday during our KOZ we set up a challenge course. It had jumps and ropes and mud holes. The obstacles were relatively simple but it didn’t matter, the boys loved it. One obstacle was a rope swinging over a water tank. It was a short swing and just a few feet off the ground. About halfway through the day one of the little guys swung out and slipped as he crossed the water tank. He tumbled to the ground and almost immediately started crying. When it became apparent he needed attention we moved in. After a few minutes we decided to take him to the fire station around the corner to get him checked by our EMS friends. He went from there to the hospital, it was broken. Later that day we went to visit him in the hospital and we began to apologize profusely to the parents. The mom stopped us in midsentence, “Hey, it’s okay. He is a boy. We get it. It happens. We read Wild at Heart.” For me, those parents get an A+ for knowing what a boy even is.
We as KOZ men are fighting for the hearts and souls of the boys in our care. Does it mean they need slap fights and headlocks, no. Is that part of what they may experience along the trail, yes. It is what they do with those things that they have to learn to traverse. Do you punch a bully? Can you play outside in 100-degree temperature? Can you fix a flat tire? Can you start a camp fire, shoot a gun or bow, catch a fish? Yes, yes they need to understand the way of a man. To do that they may have to get a few stiches, a little road rash. They will need a man to show them how to fix a broken water pipe. But they are designed for that, it is our being. A boy who does not have those lessons can wander his whole life looking for who he is. His heart deeply wounded.
Proverbs 22:29, Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Yes, a boy can be validated and trained to walk the uneven ground of life today. It takes a good man, a man of faith, a man who cares about him to make that happen. That is the mission the men of KOZ are on. For those of us who train the boys, we will face our past wounds and hurts. The places we took arrows and the scabs will come off. Stand close to each other brothers and know what is to come, how God uses our past for His works today. This is the world of a true man and His responsibility. A KOZ Harvest Team Leader.
“What are you looking at,” Mrs. Greaney asked as I was staring over at the playground. “That little guy is a bully and I just want to go over there and yank him off that playscape.” “Don’t you run a ministry for boys?” Oh my gosh. I hate it when she does that. Don’t I understand the way of the boy? Just then a dad from the crowd stepped in and the boy moved away. When we were walking to the car a bit later I saw the little bully walking with his family ahead of me. He was holding the front of the cane a blind man was navigating with. He led the man to a car and helped him get in. Okay God, I hear you. Yes sir, I do not know the boys story, I need to tend to my wife. I need to go get her a scoop of ice cream and pay attention to her. Man do I forget the basics fast.