Enjoy the following post by Mentor Anthony Avila, about why he shows up for the boys. Please note this was written before Covid-19.
I love sharing with everyone I know about how Boys to Men Tucson does such incredible work mentoring boys.
I love fundraising for the organization so we can provide stellar programming.
But when it comes to actually spending time in a school classroom with a dozen hormone-fueled boys?
Um...can I just, like, post flyers up somewhere?
Is there an option with a better…odor?
Listen, middle school was really awkward for me. Wasn’t it for most people? So why in the heck would I want to go back?
As for high school, it was challenging, uncomfortable and the kids gave me a hard time. And THAT’s just from my days as a teacher.
It's awkward being back in this place I've spent so many years growing out of. As far as I've come in life, I don't feel quite ready to go back to those years.
Last year I volunteered with BTMT for 6 months and that whole time was looking forward to becoming a mentor in a circle. I had gotten fingerprinted and just needed to get placed into a circle. Finally when I was matched, I was super excited. I would be mentoring 7th and 8th grade boys at a middle school downtown along with two other experienced adults.
Man, I'm going to change their lives! Look at me! Being such a generous and inspiring soul!
And then….fart jokes.
Now they're making fun of me by telling me I look like the blue-painted face guy from the Disney movie Brave (and dang it, they're not exactly wrong.)
Oh look, now I can't follow the conversation because 3 boys are talking at once.
I bet if you held these boys under a microscope you would find their molecular makeup was 63% bouncing hormones and 24% hot cheetos. (The remainder, mostly internet memes).
I’m making light of my experience, but truthfully, I don’t always like going to my school circle. I drive 25 minutes across town approaching rush hour, pay 50 cents to park, maaaybe jay walk across the street just to sit with these teenage boys for sixty minutes tops.
They can barely focus. They are constantly interrupting each other or themselves because they have no attention span.
Many times I want to scream. (I don't, but trust me I want to.)
So why do I do it? Why do I keep showing up?
Because this is important. It is part of my calling as a man in the community, in the village.
I see my role not unlike a firefighter. Or surgeon. Or plumber. They don’t do the work because it’s fun, because it’s neat and pleasant. They do it because it’s vital. Because I don’t want to live in a society where men aren’t showing up for the boys.
And because I am them. I'm still a boy at heart who can barely focus at times. I don't always get social cues. I need grace and forgiveness and patience and love just like they do.
So many people run away from teenagers and pre-teens because they don't fit inside a box. They're constantly trying to fit in and they are getting every message possible that they don't. Many then take on the message that they're not wanted.
If I can love them, if we can, just as they are, imperfect and sometimes obnoxious and rude and silly - then I'm sending a message that it's OK to be just as you are. It might be the most difficult age to love unconditionally, and it's also where we can make the most impact.
The way that they are loved by their community now will mean a lot for the way they are able to love others as they grow into their own identity as men. And that means a lot to me.
And so, bring on the fart jokes. Go ahead and tease me and call me Lord Macintosh. Bring it on.
Because easy or not, I'm going to keep showing up for the boys.
Anthony Avila, Mentor