Follow me down

What makes someone worth following?

This question was posed to me (and a group of other men) one night at an event we call “Bourbon and Cigars.” The meeting has become a ritual, something we can count on; a weekly rhythm for men to gather and discuss life over spirits and smokes.

Who do you follow?

This was another question that succeeded the first. The men around the fire were silent for a long time; looking off into the distance to the sun setting over the West Side of Cincinnati.

“My father,” one man said after quite some time. We spoke about parents; about the roles of fathers versus mothers, if we, as men, were looking more for male leadership in our lives over female leadership. We spoke about the difference between people we look up to and those who we believe are worth following.

I thought about my dad. How I followed him as a child. How he taught me what he knew. I thought about his patience, his level-headedness; how I felt safe when he was around.

When I became a man, the image of my dad was tainted. My parents divorced. Now they don’t even speak to one another. My dad can’t even say my mom’s name. This question of who I follow caused my stomach to turn a bit.

I didn’t give my answer right away. Instead, I thought about how I don’t particularly want to follow anyone at the moment. Being a follower has almost become a bad word in our culture. We should be self starters! We should be completely independent! We should be free from any power over us! I am my own man, I thought. An army of one.

After battling in my own head, I thought about my mentor. How I met him when I was in grade school and did in fact follow his lead throughout middle and high school. What made him worth following?

Well, he is committed to service:

My mentor has been involved in the ministry of Young Life for over 20 years. He made a commitment when he was in college to mentor high school kids and share life with them and tell them his truth; how he found peace in the Gospel of Jesus. He has devoted his life to helping others; his impact is undeniable. He has reached thousands of young men and women through his humble service.

The Bourbon and Cigar crew talked then about imperfection; how it’s hard to follow anyone because we are all so broken. I said that the people worth following will undoubtedly screw up, but what makes them worth following is how they respond after.

There are two men in particular I’ve seen in my life that are worth following; my mentor and my grandfather. I thought about both of them and came to a realization – I have never seen either of them screw up. I do admit, I have put them on somewhat of a pedestal, but truthfully, they have been uncommonly consistent in their pursuit to live uprightly.

My mentor is steadfast and reliable. His “yes” means yes and his “no” means no. I am also certain he loves me. My grandpa was positive and uplifting every single time I saw him. His words were seasoned with love. His actions were compassion (the noun felt better there for some reason). I knew he loved me. He also loved his wife well.

(Aside) I don’t see many men that love their wives well. I don’t see men who inspire me with how they serve their wives.

So these were the themes that surfaced through the conversation around the fire. In my opinion, the people worth following are the ones who serve others, serve their families, and as a result, serve whole communities.

Also, people worth following, love well. There should be no question in your mind, that the person you are following, loves you.

The Blue-Silver Being

I am a flat, graphite sketch
on a interdimensional being’s
drafting table.

I look to my right and left
and the being is shouting
at me about depth.

Depth? I ask. Like, what
in the hell is that? Then I
skip away feeling heavy.

I know the being is there,
but I can’t see it/him/her.
The being is blue-silver.

I pray to the being every
night, even though it/him/her
recently erased some of my friends.

I’m not super scared of getting
erased – mostly because, what
does that feel like, ya know?

My world is screens and planes.
The being’s world is cubes and shadows.
Maybe I wanna see stuff like that.

“Everyone gets erased at some point,”
the other 2Ds tell me. I wonder sometimes
about the thickness of this page.

If I am a drawing, is there a drawer?
Woah! Creation ideas abound in two
directions!

I am a bunch of curvy
and straight lines. The being is
fractal-crystal-galaxy-turbulence.

Maybe I will never understand
the ways of the being. Maybe
I’m too thin to take all that in.

Outward, Inward

Contain,
Contain
You-see-through-glass
Bring the water to my lips again

The molecules are more focused in the glass
Than they are in the water
And the table has even more
And then there’s the floor

On the foundation rests the house
And that house sits on the ground
Which is as dense as the earth is wide
He pulls the molecules aside

Contain,
Contain
You-see-through-glass
Bring the water to my lips again

Loosely fitting pieces
Sit atop magma and rock
The ground sits on top of the shelf
And I sit on top of it all by myself

Oh, where does the earth rest?
And how does space sound?
Maybe the earth is a glass
To the beginning, alas!

Contain,
Contain
You-see-through-glass
Bring the water to my lips again

Contain,
Contain
“A glass can only spill
What it contains”

He shook his fist from the stage

Because it makes you feel good.
Because it’s tax deductible.
You’ll cross off a box on that long list –
and you’ll sleep better.

What do we have to spare?
Hope to receive it back.
Everyone in the office is –
You should too.

The biggest check,
Has your signature at the bottom –
I wonder if that wing of the church,
has a name already?

Gold plaques
with embossed letters.
Full page spreads
in every local newspaper.

Because it’s a competition.
Because it’s about you.
He shook his fist from the stage –
and said you won’t feel guilty.

You really hate to feel guilty
It’s like being exposed a fraud.
You hate to feel guilty,
More than you care to give.