On March 12, 2012, my favorite blog, The Art of Manliness (AoM), referenced one of my very favorite movies, Gran Torino, in an article called, "The Walt Kowalski Toolbox" If you have not seen this movie your manliness is at least a notch below where it could be. No, seriously. This movie will literally make extra hair come out of your chest.
AoM's article - superb as always - focuses on three essential elements that, according to Gran Torino's Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), make up the most basic tool kit. These magical items are (drum roll please) Duct Tape, Vise Grips, and WD40. From there, AoM does their thing, going into detail about each item's history and uses.
I want to focus your attention on another tool in Walt Kowalski's toolbox.
The Role Model.
It's history? As old as time. It's purpose? Fixes broken lives.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, Walt Kowalski is a grizzly old man living in his beautifully up kept house in a very unkempt part of town. Gang violence is rampant; the pressure to join even more so. Walt, a Korean War vet and widower, hates to be bothered and has ZERO tolerance for what he considers to be human trash around his house. The signature line of the movie is Clint Eastwood telling an intruder to "Get off my lawn" (gun to face, awesome manly voice).
But alas, there's a teenage boy, Thao, who lives next store with no father - no one to encourage him as he combats the ever increasing peer pressure to join his cousin's gang. In a moment of weakness, Thao is coerced to steal Walt's prized Grand Torino, only to be caught. Even though Walt is cranky and hateful, he starts to see the need in Thao's life for a father-figure, and even helps his family. He doesn't do anything special to win Thao over. He just shows him a few things that every man needs to know and spends some time with him. I won't spoil the rest.
Let me get to the point. Buying tools is easy. Being a role model is hard.
While you can go to Lowe's and get a watcha-ma-call-it-do-dad for $5, little johnny across the way can't go to walmart and buy a replacement for the dad that ran out on him when he was three and a half.
I know. It takes guts to go out of our comfort zones. I literally am the worst person in the world at talking to my neighbors. I got to know my neighbors once. Within a year, they moved a thousand miles away. But I am telling you that if you want to be a true family leader - a true man - you have to be willing to be a role model to kids around you. Plus, your kids need to see you care.
So who is that kid to you? Is it a neighbor? Is your youth leader looking for some volunteers (I'm certain he/she is). Could they be your own kids? There's a distinct moment in my memory when I realized that I had to wake up as a dad. I looked at my son and realized his dad is either going to suck or be awesome, and I have to decide which it's going to be.
Be a man. Be a leader. Be a role model.
........and watch Gran Torino.
I want to hear from you! If you have a story, comment, thought....anything, please comment below. Let's get this thing going!
* Gran Torino is rated R for violence and language. However, these elements are contextually accurate and realistic rather than gratuitous. In other words, they give the movie a realistic heaviness that it deserves.