Monday, February 16, 2009

Art of Manliness - Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

Another interesting post from The Art of Manliness, this one looks at the idea of mentors for young men in particular, but also men in general. I've been fortunate to have one of these men in my life, when I was in my early twenties, and he is still a friend today. In fact, he has known me longer than any other person alive who is still in my life.

Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

February 15, 2009

manmentor Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

When I was 15, I met a man who would have a profound impact on my life. His name was Andrew Lester. I first encountered Mr. Lester at church. He was the fun old guy that everyone liked being around. Despite being in his 8os, he had this boyish, mischievous look to him. He also made wearing a Breath-right nasal strip look cool. He wore them all the time. Mr. Lester was an artist by trade. His mother was a Cheyenne Indian, so his art focused on Native American motifs. A tribe called him the White Buffalo, and he made a really beautiful painting representing the name bestowed on him. I have print of it hanging up in my office.

While Mr. Lester dabbled in painting, his real skill was in sculpting clay. He sculpted mammoth busts of great people from history like Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Thorpe, and Western movie star Tom Mixx. When he wasn’t working in his studio, he volunteered in various community organizations aimed at helping underprivileged Native and African Americans. Mr. Lester was very active in the African-American community in Oklahoma and founded the Oklahoma African-American Museum Hall of Fame.

When I first saw Mr. Lester at church, I never thought he would become a mentor and good friend to me. But by chance, I was asked to regularly visit him and his wife to help them out around their home. Little did I know the impact this man would have on my passage into manhood.

A few weekends a month throughout high school, I would drive up to Mr. Lester’s home in Guthrie to visit him. Our visits usually began with me doing some chore around the house or in his art studio. This often involved me pulling some weeds or moving the big clay busts around in his studio. He sometimes had me actually work on his busts. I remember doing some fine tuning to Tom Mixx’s hat and nose with a chisel and some sandpaper.

lester11 Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

After I finished my task, Mr. Lester and I would go to his living room or studio just to talk. He’d share with me stories from his life. I learned how as a teenager in the 1920’s, Mr. Lester hitchhiked all the way from Cheyenne, OK to San Antonio, TX just to see if the Alamo would display a bust of Davy Crockett that he had sculpted. They agreed. The sculpture is still there today.

He shared with me his experience as an art teacher for troubled students in inner city Los Angeles during the 1960s. This was an intense time to be a white guy living in that part of LA. Racial tensions were high and boiled over in 1965 during the Watts Riot. But despite being a white guy from Oklahoma, Mr. Lester was able to make fast friends with the students in his class. And he quickly became involved with helping the African-American community in the city.

With each story, Mr. Lester would always impart a life lesson. He’d used the story about his trip to San Antonio to teach me about doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal in life. His experience in Los Angeles conveyed to me the importance of tolerance, respect, and compassion for people who are different from you and that a real man will stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Mr. Lester would always ask me about what was going on in my life. He’d listen intently and provide some counsel and words of encouragement or sometimes a verbal kick in the butt if I needed it. After each visit with him, I felt uplifted and edified.

But my friend and mentor became sick. He was diagnosed with cancer. Our visits became shorter. It was hard to see this man who was once filled with mischief and vitality become weak from the chemo. But Mr. Lester still shared stories and lessons, and he still gave me advice and counsel.

Mr. Lester died during my senior year of high school. I remember driving up to Cheyenne, OK, to see Mr. Lester return to his birthplace. His final resting ground was appropriate; Cheyenne’s wide open skies and desert landscape provided enough room for a spirit as big as Mr. Lester’s to roam.

lester Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

Andrew Lester Working on a Bust

It’s been almost ten years since Andrew Lester died, but I can still vividly remember the conversations we had and the lessons he presented to me. From Mr. Lester, I learned the importance of being an honorable man. I learned that success in life requires tenacity and enthusiasm. I learned that the strong should look out for the weak. And I learned the value of respect towards all men, no matter their race, creed, or social background.

Read the rest of the post to see the four kinds of mentors most men need, and for how to become a mentor to others.

1 comment:

Graham from The Confident Man Project said...

Hey I totally agree that having male mentors is vital for men to be successful in life. Thanks for your posting!