My father was released from prison when I was 12 years old. He had been out a few short months when he started dating a beautiful blonde woman who I’ll call Joan.
Joan was very nice and I could tell that her and my dad really enjoyed each other’s company. I remember one night in particular when they both sat me down and told me that Joan was pregnant and I was going to be a big brother!
My new little brother was born and it was a very exciting time, especially for my Dad who had been in a prison cell for the previous 12 years.
But it wasn’t too long after this that I found out my Dad had been arrested again and was being sent back to prison. His drinking had gotten the best of him. I had mentioned before that my Dad didn’t have his father growing up. My grandfather was shot and killed outside of a bar after getting into an altercation with another man. My Grandma was 8 months pregnant with my Dad when she got that dreaded phone call.
So without his father around, My Dad had to learn the hard way what it means to be a man. He recently confessed to me that when I was born, he would hold me for a little while & then all these emotions would start coming up which made him feel vulnerable. Because of this discomfort he would hand me back to my Mom and then go and numb those feelings, with drugs and alcohol.
I’m sure this time around was no different. When he would hold his new son, those feelings would come up again. Thoughts that I’m sure took over and made him feel afraid and confused and unsure of what it takes to be a good dad. So each time he would get drunk, do something crazy (under the influence), and wake up the next morning in a jail cell blacked out from the night before and wondering how he got here.
When my Father was sent back to prison, Joan wasn’t so sure how this was going to work. As time passed and my Dad continued serving time, Joan and his relationship slowly deteriorated. I could only imagine what that must feel like to know that your new girlfriend and your new baby boy are out in the world and here you are in a jail cell unable to be there for them. Prison can make a person go crazy and I’m sure my Dad had a lot of crazy moments during this time.
What Joan did next was very shocking to my dad and to the rest of our family. Along with the support of her own family, she decided to take their newborn son and move away so my dad wouldn’t have contact. She also decided to have my little brothers name changed so there was no way of tracking him down. My Dad was devastated.
Cut to 16 years later >>
I’ll be 29 this July and as I’ve grown up I always knew that somewhere out there, I had a little brother. I didn’t know his name, where he lives, or what he does, but I knew he was out there.
Then one day, by the power of social media, my little brother who I’ve never met, sent me a private Facebook message saying that he was my brother and that his mom had been keeping up with me through my social media and thought I would be a positive influence in his life so she told him who I was and how he could find me. From that day forward we’ve been communicating slowly and trying to really get to know one another.
Now, like my father, my brother also struggles with bi-polar disorder as well depression and low self-esteem. He’s been on medication since he was a in elementary school. It got so bad at times that he was sent to another school in a different state to hopefully help him.
When we first started communicating through Facebook Messenger, he would ask me all kinds of questions. Questions about myself, about our dad, and about life. This was when he opened up to me about all the pain he’s been feeling for a long time. He blames Dad for not being there… which I can totally relate to. He questions whether or not he should continue living his life…which hurts me to even think about. But as I’m having these conversations, I realized that this was an opportunity for me to be there for him and encourage him. I remember being his age (15-16) and feeling the same confusion and anger that he feels.
But what helped me overcome those rough times were the people in my life who listened to me, encouraged me, and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They were there for me when I needed them the most. And that’s when it hit me…..
There are so many young men out there, just like my little brother and myself, who have had a rough upbringing. Some of them were born into drugs, poverty, and some have a parent in prison.
What a lot of these young men are lacking are Mentors in their lives that can listen to them and help them understand what it takes to be a man and what it takes to overcome adversity. It was right in this moment that I decided to dedicate my life to being the difference in these kids lives, including my new little brother. It’s a work in progress but we are definitely moving forward in our relationship.
Friends, there are so many young boys out there who are lost. Boys that would do anything to have someone like YOU or ME who they can talk to and learn from. A lot of times, boys without a father or boys with low self-esteem resort to drugs and alcohol because it numbs those feelings. Then there is a greater chance they will eventually end up in jail or even committing suicide because, “they don’t have a reason to live anymore.”
I want to do my best to change that. I want to be a guy who uses technology and social media to speak life into these young men. I want to remind them that they are not alone and they have people who care about them.
Before I write a status or post a new video, I think about my little brother. I think about what he’s going through and what he needs in his life and then I do my best at using my carefully thought out words to encourage him and hopefully I can make him feel a little bit better.
I want to challenge you to do the same.
To the Men reading this >> It’s easy to stay comfortable and avoid the challenges that come with mentoring a young person. But I promise you that there is nothing more fulfilling than being there for someone who desperately needs you.
I’m dedicated to doing my part in being a positive light in this world and I want to encourage you to do the same.
Be a #Gentleman. Be a #Mentor. Be the #Difference.