Some cultures offer a “rite of passage“ for their boys and occasionally, their girls. A challenge of some sort, that by fulfilling, they are looked upon by others and themselves, as an adult man or woman.
The Fulani Tribe in Mali, West Africa send their young men out into the Sahel (the “shore” of the Sahara desert) with a herd of cattle. It is their responsibility to find grazing land for the cattle and food for themselves for about 8 months. Upon their return, they are hailed as men in the tribe.
In America, we seem to lack a formal rite of passage. We have grown men who feel their fathers still view them as boys...per an old quote by Marshall Brickman, (folk singer/writer, Oscar award winning screenwriter for Annie Hall, Manhattan, movie/TV actor/director/producer) after receiving accolades on his talents and successes, he interrupted the TV interviewer to ask, “Would you mind saying that again? I want to make sure my father heard it.”
These and other “rite of passage” ideas played through my mind this week-end as I attended the wedding celebration for my Grandson Sean. At the young age of 19, Sean, being a member of the Mormon Church, applied for and was accepted to serve a two year mission to South America. Outwardly, this practice appears to be a method for proselytizing and, of course, it is. But, inwardly, it is also, a rite of passage for these young men and women.
I was privileged to follow Sean’s ascent into manhood through the letters he sent home. I remember one insight shared with me...
Sean’s Mother, Arlene––a talented pianist––taught her girls piano. Sean, not interested in piano, turned down his Mother’s offer to teach him, deciding the drums were a better instrument for his talents. At his new mission in a very modest quarter of Fortaleza, Brazil, he discovered a beautiful people living life simply. In one corner of the humble dwelling they used as a church, stood an old piano...they were so proud that they had one, but no one there could play it. Arlene cried as Sean expressed sadness, in his letter, for not having accepted the gift of music she had offered to him years earlier. It was a major connection for him to see how what is offered to us at one point in our lives serves to prepare us for other points along our journey.
Such insights flooded his letters and our hearts as we watched him mature from a boy into a confident young man. Upon his return, groups gathered to hear his stories...for he was now a man and had words of worth to share with others. And they listened...young and old.
And now he is married, beginning his life with Ashley. I look with pride upon this man, being one of his three grandmothers, and await his contributions to the world.
Love & Blessings,