As I was sitting waiting on my meal, I couldn’t help but to eavesdrop on the conversation that was occurring between the father and daughter sitting diagonally across from my booth. I found myself extremely curious about the elderly gentlemen’s depiction of his life’s journey. He spoke about all of the odd jobs he worked throughout his life in order to maintain and provide a living for his family. All the pains, prejudices and stresses he endured and never shared because he wanted to shield his children from those truths. He spoke with such reverence, gratitude, dignity and conviction. He was so grateful that the one of his children who he worked so hard to provide for was appreciative enough to take time out of their busy schedule and spend time with what he deemed, “a feeble, fragile and forgotten about old man.” After I finished my breakfast, I went over, firmly shook his hand, introduced myself and thanked him for paving the way for me and countless other brothers of my generation. I went on to tell him, “It’s not because you’re so big or because you’re so small, rather it’s because I truly appreciate your presence.” “Its folks like you that have sincerely taught us lessons about what it means to show up.”
Have you ever looked a real man in the eye and saw the essence of his existence? How many men can you count in your circle of influence who can exude the equivalence of excellence? How many truly live by example and show up everyday despite the discontentment, disappointment and discouragement of their mitigating circumstances? One of my favorite subjects to talk about is courage. It’s a rare commodity in today’s society because many of us are not bold or daring enough to take on the challenges of what it takes for true bravery. The greatest stories ever told are typically about male heroes who either left, lost or risked everything they had in the name of love. Of course that concept is easy to understand when you’re talking about epic blockbuster movies like Star Wars, Superman, Braveheart, Gladiator, etc. However, when you’re referring to real life examples that exemplify the mental and moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty, our examples become scarce.
Fellas, I assure you that we’re in the presence of courageousness and greatness everyday. That greatness I speak of isn’t representative of the protagonists that perpetuate the existence of modern day movie heroism, but I assure you they do exist. Similar to my breakfast encounter with Mr. Clayton, there are multiple men and women who should share our celebratory gratitude and acknowledgement of their ability to continue showing up. There are countless courageous elderly individuals who deserve our appreciation for carrying the burdens of bravery on their backs so we could enjoy life as we know it today. The lessons they’ve vicariously shown us speak volumes about how the simple things throughout our lives’ can and do count for something. Their presence gave us the presents of freedom, education, equality, justice and so on. It takes courage to show up everyday and be told you don’t count, you’re worthless, you’re less than a man or you’ll never amount to anything. Thank God for the Ralph Ellisons’ who told them, “Even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play.” The Maya Angelous’ who told them, “we were born with potential.” The Du Bois’ who told them how to be ready at any moment to be able to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.Fellas I implore and challenge you as real men to now show up for them.Show up by setting good examples for the generations below you.Be men of courage.Show up for fidelity, show up for responsibility, show up for love, honesty, leadership, integrity, show up for your children, show up for education, work, to vote, court, business ownership, family, church…show up for life!So the next time you see one of our common everyday elderly Black heroes who helped pave the way for us to have the opportunity to show up, its your responsibility as a real man to pay homage by introducing yourself, firmly shaking their hand, looking them straight in the eyes and sincerely thanking them for having the audacity, boldness and courage to show up everyday!Show up, show love and show respect to the courageousness that helped catapult and cultivate the culture in which we enjoy today.
Written by Jack A. Daniels: this column & more can be found at For the Fellas