My Mentors Taught Me That

Blog Archive from November 4, 2010

908 miles from home, 50 miles into a 65-mile mountain bike trip, 9 miles into a 14-mile uphill “grunt” of a day… it starts to rain. I am not a kid anymore. Playing in the rain isn’t fun like it used to be. Cold rain was never fun. Cold rain on burning quadriceps doesn’t “cool” them off. I was miserable. It was only a few moments, but those are the kind that last the longest.

Let’s back up here. It’s summer time 2010. I’m an Explore Austinstaff member in Colorado with eleven 16-year old inner-city youthand their Mentors (of 3 years) on a Summer Wilderness Trip. This is supposed to be a good time for all, right? Wrong. This is a trip to build and develop character; to learn to take decisive action, to learn to overcome challenges and obstacles; to confront fear; to become a better teammate; and to strengthen communications skills. I knew that beforehand. However, that was all for the kids, I thought…

Everyone was ready to reach the campsite two hours ago. Soggy lunch and overcast skies don’t create hope and positive attitudes. Nonetheless, the team must reach the campsite together. Everyone musters their most encouraging words, but today, at this moment, they fall to the ground before they fall off our tongues.

All week long, JD has been impossible for me to catch. He is always at the front of the  pack. He’s wearing untied basketball high-tops.  I’m clipped in. Bike “shammys” for support. Camelback to cut down on unnecessary movement when hydrating. Still he leads; cocky, confident, fast. The rest of the group struggles to stay together. JD gets impatient and makes a disparaging remark. It doesn’t go unnoticed, but we ride on planning to debrief around the campfire.

As we get started, JD interrupts. He says he has something to say. I’m not sure what’s about to happen. I thought everyone came into camp in high spirits. JD looked fierce.

“I just want to apologize for my comments on the ride back there. A real man admits when he’s wrong and owns up to it. I’m sorry for letting my team down.”

I was floored. JD was a hard kid. Made harder by poor choices and parole officers.  Somehow, JD had learned that “Real Men” not only make mistakes, but they own up to them. Most adults don’t get this part right, including myself most of the time. This insight will positively affect the course of his life forever. I was inspired and thought it appropriate to tell so.

“JD, I’m proud of you. You’re right; a ‘real man’ make mistakes and takes responsibility for those mistakes. Be sure to thank whoever taught you that when you get home.”

JD replied, “No need to wait, my Mentors taught me that.”