(originally appeared on readypublication.com)
What can an elderly man say to his grandson that will make a difference in his life ? What is important for any young African American boy to know in order to be successful in America? I believe a young man needs the voices of his elders to tell him the truth about life as early as possible in order to have the faith to overcome the challenges of living in America. The father may not know all there is to know about how one’s life will end up, but the grandfather will have a good idea based on the life he’s lived thus far. And as a grandfather, one has an additional 30-40 years’ worth of life experiences than his grandson’s mother or father.
While on a flight to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, I found myself thinking about my first grandson–potentially, my only grandchild. I felt an urgency to write about my life and faith so that he would know everything I would want to share with him in person just in case something happened to me on this trip. The 2018 Olympics took place in the shadow of a potential nuclear spat between the United States and North Korea. And right before I left on that flight, I learned that I was finally going to have a grandson– a grandbaby that I had been looking forward to for so many years. I decided to go to the 2018 Olympics despite the potential risks. As I began to write, it compelled me to question what was important, what of my life experience and wisdom, to pass on to him.
I started to write about my childhood in the streets of Philadelphia where there were challenges with my parents inside the home and struggles with gang members outside the home. A young man needs to know that life is not always easy to understand, but you must stand up for something and for yourself. I wanted to tell my grandson that no matter what, always respect your parents and forgive others for the misguided and unintentional wrong done to you. One has to have faith in God to do this and a young boy can find this faith by having hope and believing firmly that things will get better. I believe in a strong foundation of faith at a young age.
As I was writing, I recalled reading the Ten Commandments in the Bible and recognized how clear it was to me that I needed God and that many of the things I was doing and others were doing are wrong. Yes, wrong! It is wrong to lie, steal, and say incorrect things about other people. It is wrong to kill another person. These are the values I want to instill in my grandson–attend church, read the Bible in order to gain wisdom, instruction, and insight into what it means to be a good man.
I deeply wanted my grandson to know many truths about my life and I was concerned that if I were to r die on this trip to South Korea, that would not happen. I felt compelled to share my life story with my grandson, telling him everything I believe he needed to know in order to grow up successfully as an African American male in the country I love. If I had the opportunity to read to him what I put down in words, he would see how a young man can be tempted to do good and/or bad by letting his emotions get out of control. When that happen to me, I got in all kinds of trouble at home and at school.
However, so much of it could have been avoided had I handled things differently. And that is the thing–we as men, as grandfathers, must be honest with ourselves and call a spade a spade by telling the truth and admitting how some things can be done differently. Of course, we may not be able change things, but our sons and grandsons have that opportunity if we are truthful with them.
I also believe that a young boy needs to hear certain things from a man’s perspective. When I began to write more about my life, I pictured what it would look like to have a “man-to-boy” or “man-to- man” discussion. Questions that begin with, “Why did you…?” or “Why did you fight then?”, “How did you get home?” or “ Why did you not do well in school?” are the types of questions I want to be present to ask and answer with my grandson. For example, when I was struggling with my boyhood, my grandmother knew it and she was wise enough to have me read Rudyard Kipling’s poem entitled, If, which is a man’s voice on paper. A poetic conversation that said if you can do these things, you will be a man, my son. I read that poem and studied it. Later in life, that one poem was life saving for me and helped me cope with so many tantalizing situations while in the military and business. Kipling’s voice on paper has never left me.
With these and other revelations in my head, I had an urgent need to
put these details in my computer. Is my own life evidence of how a
man can potentially live his life and fulfill his dreams here in America?
I believe so. If I believe what I have to say is good enough for my grandson, then certainly others, especially other young African American men, could learn something from my life as well. So, I finally finished writing a soon-to-be released memoir called:: EVIDENCE UNSEEN: Finding The Faith To Overcome. Our grandchildren need to hear our life stories and grandfathers have an important role to play in helping young boys develop into young men. Our grandsons need to hear our voices to help shape their understanding about life so they can be READY for the life challenges they will face.