In an increasingly impersonal world, it is easy for individuals to become isolated and distant, even in a crowded room. Largely gone are the days of gathering on a neighbor’s porch, taking a walk with a trusted elder, or spending time in community to gain insights, emulate role models and soak in the accumulated lived wisdom of those who came before.

 

Such connections are in particularly short supply among men as they try to navigate the often-conflicting roles of father, provider, husband and upstanding member of society. With the rise of single-parent households, more boys than ever before are growing up without a consistent positive male role model in the home. Societal pressures and media images add their own brand of stress and pressure on teens and young adult men as they flounder to ascertain who and what they are expected to be.

 

For this year’s Men’s Issue, AY About You reached out to a cross section of Arkansas men to get their best advice for their brethren, the coming generation, and their own sons and grandsons. Their real-world advice tells of the importance of becoming a strong man in a misguided society, what real manhood looks like and what life has taught them about how to achieve it.

 

The individuals included here are not perfect, nor do they pretend to be. They are merely wiser for their life experiences and willing to share what they have learned with those who seek to hear it. May their advice inspire other men to rededicate themselves, break generational cycles, overcome obstacles and become the best versions of themselves.

 

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“If neighborhoods and communities are to thrive, families need men — and women — of honor, value and ethics. I have had very strong male role models, two of whom are deceased and one who is still leading me, even at my age.

 

My stepfather, Leo, came into my life when I was only 2 years old. He was a steadfast, hard-working man who honestly wanted to give us a better life. I learned a lot just by watching how he carried himself. Archie Davis came into my life at age 10. He was the pastor of the church I attended. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how he took me under his wing. He was my role model. Currently, James Gentry is my role model and my confidante.

 

To a young man who is struggling, I’d say search hard and long, if need be, to find a positive role model, confidante, and someone who will put your best interest and well-being first and foremost. You do not have to be a product of your environment if it is negative. Find someone who can teach you how to be the young man who can navigate life’s circumstances.

 

Fathers are in a prime position to be role models, but unfortunately, too many fathers are absent from their children’s lives. Absent fathers must do better; it is critical to the development of youth as they grow physically, mentally and emotionally for both boys and girls. Boys will try to act tough and pretend that it doesn’t matter, but absent fathers speak volumes when they are not in the lives of their children.

 

Life is a gift. Do not allow minor setbacks to become permanent. Wake up every morning with the mindset of overcoming, determined to remain a man of integrity at all times.”

 

Glen Lane

Youth Center Manager, Jacksonville Parks and Recreation/Martin Street Youth Center

Husband to Antionette

Father to DeAndre and Amika

Guardian to Aniyah

 

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