Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Numbering Our Days

Can you remember back when you were a small boy? For many of us, nights were times fraught with fear, as we knew there was a horrible, boy-eating monster lurking in the closet, waiting for the lights to go out. In the dark it would spring out and gobble us in one bite. For some of us the horrible monster was the older brother in the bed beside us, who took great pains to insure our sleep would be marred by dreams of flesh-eating bugs, snakes and other monsters.

For others of us, childhood fears matured into more frightening phobias like arachnophobia, acrophobia, trypanophobia, pteromerhanophobia and the ever-popular glossophobia. But no matter if your childhood fears translated into an adult fear of spiders, heights, injections, flying or public speaking, one thing is almost certain: we all have fears.

As we age we may fear losing our hair, our job, our income, or our ability to rank highly on Google. Men often begin to fear their own aging when they bury their father. As we stand beside dad's casket, we're reminded it is us who now keep the family's hopes, dreams and honor. No longer will we be able to call dad with a question about relationships, finances, our future goals, or just to bask in his wisdom. We now are the ones to be called, and we fear letting our family down.

One of the fears of aging is the sobering realization our days are numbered, and there is less time we can make our mark on this world. For men, leaving a legacy is a big deal. No matter our station in life, we want to be remembered -- and if possible, fondly. A boyhood fantasy of putting one out of the park in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series with two down, a full count, and bases loaded -- and his team behind by three runs -- is a young boy's hope of leaving a permanent mark of greatness on the world that will stand the test of time.

Many men consider a lasting legacy something that is tangible: a building, a policy, a speech, an event. Some men have edifices named for them; others have their faces carved in stone; others have their figures memorialized in marble or bronze.

While this is all well and good, it's my contention the greatest legacy a man can leave is the values he passes on. Fathers have the distinct ability to influence future generations through the lives of their children. Men who mentor youth create bridges between generations and have the power to extend their positive influence through these relationships -- and through the relationships those they mentor have with others.

Having your name etched in the side of a building is dandy, but when your great-grandkids can say, "I am honest because that's what my great-granddad taught our family," then you have laid a cornerstone for something that will truly last.

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