My dad’s favorite day at the senior center is Monday. That’s because on Monday afternoon, a group of boys from a neighborhood after-school club come to spend a few hours at the center. They play checkers with the seniors, hear their stories and just hang out together. Dad loves being around young people and it energizes him for the whole week.
Dad is luckily of sound mind, despite being confined to a wheelchair. He is always looking for mental stimulation and activities he can enjoy. He tells me that the boys’ visits to the center are not just for the purpose of cheering up the senior citizens. In fact, the boys get as much from these visits as the seniors do.
Many of these boys are from homes where the father is entirely or partially absent. They don’t get a lot of chances to interact with older male role models. Many of their male relatives are not positive role models and the boys are searching for men they can look up to and emulate.
Dad is from a generation where being a man meant providing for your family financially and occasionally disciplining the children. But he was also a dad who got down on to the floor to play with us, who made up stories to tell us and who took us on camping trips and to amusement parks. He made sure that we understood his values and that we grew up to be responsible and moral individuals.
Playing checkers at the senior citizen center isn’t just a diversion for him. He spends time talking to the boys as they play and he passes on those same values he taught us all those years ago. He explains to them how important it is to care for your family, get an education and express your emotions. He tells them about great men in history and he shares details of his own life.
The influence of their surroundings is strong, but Dad is hopeful that he is making a difference in these boys’ lives.
Coincidentally, International Men’s Day falls out on a Monday this year (November 19). The seniors have decided to make a celebration out of it. They have gotten the boys involved in making decorations which will be put up that day. These include pictures of men that the boys admire, famous or not, and quotations with positive messages about masculinity. There will be snacks and cake and even a few games. Dad hopes this celebration will make an impact and be remembered by the boys for years to come.
How are you celebrating International Men’s Day?