How many children did you fail today?
My current count is 8.
None of them is my own, and only 3 of them are family members (cousins, nephews), but each of them were another opportunity for me to be something. A bit more, you know? And I didn’t. I saw the opportunities cross me, and just like Casey at the bat, I let them pass. It isn’t like I’m waiting for a perfect pitch, either. I’m just actively avoiding giving any assistance to kids that aren’t my own.
And I’m failing them all in droves.
In 2012, 34 percent of the households inSacramentowere single parent households (Children In Single Parent Households, County Health Rankings). While we cannot, in all honesty, ascertain that all 34% were mother led homes, I would not hesitate to place that number at 32%, leaving that 2% margin for single father households. I know that there are some, because I was one a few years back, but for the sake of argument, we are going to say that 98% of single family households are led by mothers.
Moms, I honor you for that.
And I apologize.
I have seen so many young men that just are aimless. And it isn’t the fault of anyone in particular, but they need more guidance than what their mothers are able to offer. Or their grandmothers, or aunts, or any other women in their orbit.
Have you ever noticed that? Men do not take young males under their wings, even if they are in their family. We would rather stand back and watch them crash than step forward and help them achieve. I know I do, and I know the exact reason.
I don’t assume that many men are like me in any way, shape or form, so when I speak, please believe that I am not speaking for all men. I probably am, but until enough other men step up and confirm my thoughts, I am on an island.
I don’t trust people as a rule. I’m constantly under the belief that I am getting set up whenever I reach out, and young people are not immune from that belief.
Especially young men.
Super especially young black men.
That is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most racist statement that I’ve ever made, but the reason why I stand behind it is this:
I was a young black man. And when I was, I would take advantage of any opportunity given me, whether it was good, or bad.
More often than not, it was the good opportunities, and for that, I am eternally grateful to three people:
My mom, who was essentially a single woman for the majority of my childhood, and rode me like Zorro to make sure that I wasn’t doing too much dumb shit;
My brother, the punkass, who actually was pretty good at keeping me away from the dirt that he and his friends were doing by not letting me follow him and his friends when they were doing said dirt,
And Wayne Odd.
Wayne Odd was a 25 year old male who went to my church when I was a kid. He had two kids, both young kids, and he had a wife.
The reasons that I mention these things is so that I can click a few things off my list:
1: He had two kids. Both boys. Thus, he had no reason or need to be involved in my life. He already had boys to raise up the right way, and no one would have looked down upon him for saying that his plate was full.
2: He was married. So he didn’t have any need to pursue my mom. Which was good for me, because from the age of 3 until the age of 18, I was on that Doritos kid kick: “Don’t touch my mama, and don’t touch my Doritos.” My mom is model beautiful now, so back then, I figured that any man who was talking to me was eyeing my mom.Waynedidn’t. That meant a lot to me. He was the Anti-Cutty.
Waynewould pick me up from my house, and we would go to the park and play basketball. We would go to the museum and look at art. He let me take his older son on a bike ride, in which I had him in the baby seat on the back, and kind of forgot he was there, and ghost rode the bike while he was still attached.
(As a side note, he didn’t die. As a matter of fact, he just graduated from college with a degree in engineering, so maybe that bump to the head helped. Yay, me.)
ButWaynedidn’t yell at me for it. His wife did, a bit, and I was okay with that, because that is what my mom would’ve done.Waynejust stood back and watched, and then, when it was all over with, we talked.
And that is what we did more often than not. We talked. About how I was feeling, about girls, about fears, about my anger about my father. And he listened. Sometimes, he would point out experiences that he had, but more often than not, he listened.
You have no idea what that does for a kid, to have someone just listen. An outside party, who has nothing to gain from you except your success. I had that, and I think I am better for it.
But I have always been wary of approaching the kids in my neighborhood and mentoring them, because I don’t know how to really be of good counsel, and I don’t always say the right things, and I don’t truly have limitless amounts of patience for kids. And so I stand back and I watch them fall.
I saw one of my friend’s sons last month, and I asked him how he was doing, how school was going, all the usual adult questions. He answered them all with the enthusiasm that any kid would show for those type of questions; namely, none. We spoke, he never looked up or smiled, and I walked away, thinking that I touched another life, and that I was doing the right thing.
He went to juvenile hall a few days ago.
Now was that my fault? No. Even if I hadn’t talked with him, chances are he was still going down that path. But what if I did more than talked? What if I actually listened?
I have to say that situation lit a fire in me, and I am going to be the mentor that I should’ve been years ago. I cannot stand by and watch kids fall. I can no longer murmur ‘That’s a shame’ to family members when they tell me about another young male that is going to prison, or juvenile hall. Because it is a shame.
It’s a shame that I didn’t help.
I’m not writing this to get you to mentor. If it is in your heart, it is something that you will eventually do. I’m writing this for three reasons:
To apologize to that young man, and promise him that I will do better.
To thank my mom for never being afraid to reach out and ask for assistance. My mom recognized that she could not fully raise a boy to be a man, and that she needed help. She swallowed her pride and took me to Manhood development at my church, and she took me toWayne. How many single mothers right now are locked in that independent mind state? If you are, let me tell you that you are failing yourself, and you are failing your son. You can’t do everything. You can try, and you can fail.
AndWayne. Thank you so much for everything you did for me. Seeing you and your family a few months back was one of the greatest moments of the year, because you got the chance to see that your efforts weren’t in vain, and that your help was monumental.
If I want to have that chance 10 years from now, I’ve got to get started now. I’ve got to be a man for those young boys who don’t have one around.
I hope you will, too. This doesn’t have to be Big Brothers of America stuff. You can go to your neighbor, who has the son that you have a bit of a rapport with, and talk with her. Many times, you’ll find that they are receptive. Go from there.
If you go to church, talk with your pastor. I’m sure they know PLENTY of kids who need assistance, and will link you up with one or more.
But be aware that this is not an undertaking to take lightly. Once you are in their lives, you can’t just walk back out. This is important, because it is so easy to do because they aren’t your kids.
If you live inAmerica, chances are you can look out your window and see a kid that you are failing right now. You may know some of them, you might not.
I want to help them. I hope you do, too.
If you are interested in mentoring, and don't have any other way to get started, click here to check out the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.