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Submitted by Bob Tharp

Every child needs a father, but sons seem to be more ‘needy’ than daughters.  Maybe it’s because we need a figure to emulate, or maybe it’s because we need a mentor or an understanding older figure in our lives.  Maybe, just maybe, daughters have the same need for a maternal figure in their lives.  I don’t know for certain.

teenager and adult walkingMy biological father died when I was 11 years old.  Fortunately for me, my mother remarried a man who would become that ‘figure’ for me and who would give me a second chance. I was around 14 or 15 at the time, an age when a boy needs a man to show him just what kind of man he wants to be, and I was edging down the path toward a troubled life.  Steve’s presence at that crucial time in my life ‘saved me’.  What a guy!

My older brother had married early and moved out of our home.  My younger brother (some nine years my junior) was 6 years old or so and needed a father in the worst way; he was my mother’s ‘baby’ because she knew her life would end soon and knew she would have no other children. My older brother never developed the kind of relationship I did with Steve, and my younger brother got caught up in that father/son ‘stuff’ with which so many sons and dads struggle.  I was the lucky one!

Steve demonstrated kindness to everyone and everything; he treated all living things equally well. He lived the old adage that we all say our grandmothers taught us: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all”.  Maybe he learned that from his grandmother?

father and sonSteve believed in hard work and putting forth one’s best effort.  He believed in playing hard but also emphasized the importance of always “rising for the bell” the next morning.  In fact, he always “rose for the bell” no matter how hard he might have played the night before.  Steve also believed that we should never stop working no matter how old we become or how much success we might attain.  He would tell me, “If you don’t need the money you earn from working, then use it to help others, but keep working. Be generous with your time and money when it comes to those less fortunate.”

He also told me, “Be honest.  Demonstrate dignity.  Laugh easily or, even more importantly, make others laugh.  Be open and have a ‘soft heart’.  Embrace spirituality.  Pay your respects at funerals.  Pay attention to children – play with them and talk with them.  Take care of your family.  And, when the time comes, die gently with dignity.”

My second chance came when Steve stepped into my life.  I never once called him or introduced him as my ‘step-father’; I called him Dad until he died in 2005.  At his memorial services, I spoke of what he meant to me and what an impact he had on my entire life and the lives of my children.  I still miss him today and will miss him until I draw my last breath.  I hope that somewhere along my journey I too have given someone else a second chance.

Further Links

* Learn about the benefits of mentoring a child

* Check out “Esquire” magazine’s Mentoring Project

* Interested in mentoring? Check out these sites!

* There are many different ways to mentor a child!

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