Getting Involved Through Mentoring
Dr. Harold Davis, president of the TALKS Mentoring Movement, recalls his own childhood and the negative attitude he embraced toward school from a young age. Davis encourages parents and mentors to call today's youth to higher things, and encourages adults to get involved and make a difference in future generations.
About the Guest
Dr. Harold Davis recalls his own childhood and the negative attitude he embraced toward school from a young age.
Getting Involved Through Mentoring
Bob: Growing up in this culture is more challenging for young people than, maybe, at any time in history. Growing up in this culture, without a father to help guide you, that just makes it incredibly difficult. Here’s Harold Davis.
Harold: You look at all the negativity that they are exposed to—I can’t imagine being 15 years old and having a handheld device with access to the internet. I can’t imagine; you know?—all the negativity that they’re drenched with. We have to get out there. It’s a fight, and let’s start drenching them with some positivity.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What can we do in our communities to help young men, who are growing up without fathers, get pointed in the right direction? We’re going to explore that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, you stop, and you think about the issues that young people are facing today and the issues that moms and dads are facing—because young people are acting out. A lot of times, we focus on what the acting out looks like; but we don’t really dig below the surface and say: “How did we get there? How did this student get there? What are the seed issues that have blossomed into this kind of behavior?” I think, when we can start to peel back and look at the roots of the problems, we can start to figure out how to bring some help and hope in those situations.
Dennis: I think we can, Bob. We have a guest, Dr. Harold Davis, who joins us again on the broadcast. Harold, welcome back.
Harold: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: Harold looks at young people today in our elementary schools, junior high, and high school; and he doesn’t just see the faces.
He sees kids who come from families—many of them broken families—some of them non-existent families: absent fathers / absent mothers—who are in need of adult teaching, mentoring,—
Harold: Absolutely. They are in need of adult contact. One of the things I say, all the time, is, “Nothing is going to change until we talk to the boys”; okay? We’ve got to get out there and talk to them.
I think about prize fighters, whether it’s—you know, Mohammed Ali just passed a few years ago; so there’s been a lot of video about him on TV. One of the things that prize fighters do—that’s kind of unethical—they’ll do a low blow in a fight early in the round. Basically, even though they get penalized, the guy is really hurt—he’s not the same. Our enemy does the same thing with kids.
My classic is that, for me—of course, I’m sure that everybody has one of these stories—but, for me, I started school the first year of integration in Charleston, West Virginia.
I remember a white kid hit me in the nose. I went to the teacher and I said, “He hit me in the nose!” The teacher told me, “Shut up, and get in line!” And in kindergarten, I determined that this thing called school was not for me; you know? “I’ll come, because my mom makes me come. I like recess / I like lunch; but I’m not participating.”
Really, I had turned off to school in kindergarten. I went through my whole elementary years not really doing anything / middle school not really doing anything. I was very fortunate to get in the band, which sustained me in school. High school—really didn’t do anything—I never studied / I never did anything. I came out of high school and had a choice—Vietnam or college—not hard.
Harold: It’s not difficult. So, I went to college, and I never studied in college. I never studied, but I had a problem with Math 103. I took it as a freshman / got lost—took it as a junior / got lost. And as a senior, I had to have it to pass. Out of desperation—total and complete desperation—I did something I’d never really done before—I studied.
I studied! Teacher said: “Read Chapter 1. Do the questions at the end of the chapter,”—I did it. To my utter surprise, I got a high “C” out of that class; and I could have gotten a “B,” had my attitude been a little different.
My point is—how the enemy got me in kindergarten messed me up all those years. I didn’t even realize that I was messed up until I was a senior in college. I encounter children all the time, whom the enemy has gotten a blow in; and they are struggling with something. I was taking some information on a little boy—third grade—he’s getting into the mentoring program. I said—we normally get the race of the boy just to keep the data and everything—I asked the boy, “What’s your race?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “My momma’s black; my daddy’s white.” He said, “I don’t know!” [Laughter] I said, “Well, we’ve probably got some issues here that he has to work through.”
Kids have issues. They are bringing all types of issues to the schools. One thing I do know—the schools aren’t prepared to deal with them all. And so, it’s about mobilizing adults into the schools to spend a little time with these children and see if we can help them sort some things out.
Bob: You said something I want to double back on; because I know you’ve developed material for both leadership development with young men, but also, leadership development with young women; but you said, “If we want to make a change, we’ve got to get to the boys first.”
Harold: We’ve got to get to the boys.
Bob: Explain what you mean by that.
Harold: Well, the boys had drooping pants first; you know? Now, many girls have had drooping pants—it’s the same old thing. Girls want to please the boys; and sometimes, they follow in their behavior. That’s very unfortunate when the boys’ behavior is not acceptable. Those of us who have daughters have really fought through this thing and working hard to be close to our daughters to make sure that they are not emulating the world.
Bob: You’re saying that, if young men would step up and embrace maturity / if they would act with godly character—the young women—
Harold: —would raise their standards.
Bob: —would respond to that.
Harold: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Dennis: You actually wrote about this in a book called Run.
Dennis: And it’s subtitled—I love this—Soarin’—as in flying—Not Saggin’—
Harold: That’s right.
Dennis: —as in dropping your drawers.
Harold: Yes; absolutely. It’s totally unappealing—
Dennis: In fact, tell our listeners what you did with some boys one time. Wasn’t it you who—they were wearing sagging pants.
Harold: I was at a school in my city that I interact with—with grown boys. I had on a suit that day. The boys came in with their pants down—these are big guys; you know?—it’s just totally distasteful. Without going into detail—we’re in a small room about this size—there were about six guys in there with their pants drooping. Without saying anything, I took my pants and I put them down below my gluteus; and I tightened up my belt. They began to roll around on the floor, laughing at me, because they thought it was hilarious.
Bob: —in your suit with your pants—
Harold: —in my suit with my pants drooping. I told them, “How do you think I feel when I look at you guys—you big, grown men?”—you know.
I just kind of laid them out, because it’s very distasteful. Listen, this book, Run: Soarin’ Not Saggin’, is about excellence / it’s about excellence: “Let’s run toward excellence.”
You know, I remember one time the wife and I were sitting in a restaurant. We were looking at the front door. There was a black gentleman going out the door and a woman was coming in. The gentleman opened the door; he tipped his hat; and he bowed his head to the woman and held the door as she came in. The wife and I reflected on how that just used to be the way things were done.
Harold: That was the way things were done. I want to write a book called Black People Are Good People. Somebody ought to tell the kids; you know what I mean?—to get back to our character—where we had such high character when our music was tasteful / good lyrics. When I was coming along, the song said [Partial lyrics from The Way You Do the Things You Do / Songwriters: William Jr. Robinson and Robert Rogers].
You know, we had good lyrics!
Bob: [Singing] “Well, you could have been anything that you wanted to; I could tell”—
Harold: Sing, Bob!
Dennis: Don’t encourage it, Harold! [Laughter]
Harold: I didn’t know you had it in you.
Dennis: Oh, it’s there all the time.
Bob: Oh, yes.
Harold: Well, you know, we have to raise the character of our culture. There are elements that want to take our character down to debauchery. We all have a fallen nature that, if we don’t watch it, we’ll feed that fallen nature.
I don’t blame the young knuckleheads. I was a young knucklehead once, but I had people around me that challenged me to go higher. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to challenge the young men to: “Let’s take it to a higher level—to be a gentleman—to do things that are decent and in order and aspire to higher things.
This book, Run, is about higher things. And I wanted to say—on page 77, it says: “Run to education. Run to a reputation to be honest. Run to the skills that beat the police at their own game.”
You see, I tell the young people the police work for me. I don’t—I have no fear of the police—they work for me. “Run to everything of integrity. Run to obtain more skill sets.” So many of our boys do not know the difference between a flat-head screwdriver and a Phillips-head screwdriver—we have to teach them—they need to be taught / they need to hang out with older men—
Dennis: That’s the last one.
Harold: What’s that?
Dennis: “Run to older men for guidance and assistance.”
Harold: There you go!
Dennis: And that’s really what we’re doing on this broadcast. We’re featuring you and your ministry, TALKS Mentoring, challenging our listeners—to say: “Would you be one of a thousand—
Dennis: —“would you be one of a thousand, who would say: ‘You know what? I’d like to do something about the injustice in our culture; and I’d like to do it by going near young people in elementary, junior high, high schools and begin to develop three young people for 30 minutes a week—
Harold: That’s right.
Dennis: —“in leadership / leadership development’?” That is what TALKS Mentoring is all about.
Harold: And there is a principle woven into the fabric of the universe that says: “You reap what you sow,” and “You reap more than you sow,” and “You reap after you sow.”
Dennis, I’ve raised four children. It’s been the most incredible thing to do it with the Lord. The Lord has so blessed our family. The wife and I—all we do is help kids. She helps college ones / I help the other ones; and the Lord has so looked over our family.
Some men say to me, “Well, I’ve got three kids of my own.” I say to them: “That’s the point. You get blessed by blessing somebody else’s kids. Don’t spend all of your time just raising your kids. Spend some time giving to others so that God can give back to you stuff that you could never do or arrange.”
Dennis: Be the uncle these young men don’t have—or the aunt—
Dennis: —who can speak into these young ladies’ lives. Tell them and explain to them that they shouldn’t allow a boy or a young man to mistreat them and not treat them like a young lady and to take advantage of them—
Dennis: —but to understand what they should look for in a man before they start a relationship and move toward marriage.
Harold: They’ve got to have the models. They’ve got to have the knowledge. They have to have the support to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Bob: And we were talking earlier about young people, who are growing up with deficits—maybe, there’s not a dad in the home / maybe, there’s not a mom in the home—maybe, there is a situation where both mom and dad are there; but they’re hardly there, because they are working just to try to pay the bills.
Bob: This child is growing up without wisdom being poured into his or her life. We all know stories of young people who grow up—and it wasn’t a mom or a dad—but it was a grandmother, or it was an uncle—or maybe, we called him uncle; but he wasn’t really related to us / somebody came along—
Bob: —and said, “I’m going to help.”
Bob: And that made an indelible mark on the life of that young person.
Harold: Yes; and we still have great people in our society. There are great people in our society—good people who want to do good—but they need to be made aware of the need.
That’s what we’re doing today. We’re letting you know that you can go into an elementary school for 30 minutes, drop wisdom, and get out.
The TALKS Mentoring structure is designed to protect men from the normal pitfalls of mentoring, which is: you will not get another family; your finances will not be touched; and you don’t have to deal with Jermaine’s mother, who happens to be 31 years old, and you’re in your 50s—so none of that. We protect your integrity. You’re with three children at the school together at the same time—no evenings, no weekends, no financial expenditures. You go in and drop a little wisdom and get out. It only takes one person, who has no more sense than to think that they can make a difference. These people take the structure / the curriculum, and they run with it.
Dennis: I was with a businessman up in the Northwest recently. It was interesting to hear him talk about how he was wondering if he was really making a difference. I think, across our country, there are, literally, millions of husbands and wives, moms and dads, singles—
Dennis: —single parents, who would like to make a difference beyond their own home/ beyond their own family and reach out to the community and touch these young people. You’re actually giving them the tools—
Harold: —the tools.
Dennis: —and the messaging of what to say—
Dennis: —like your curriculum / you’ve got Talks My Father Never Had with Me. How many talks are in that curriculum that a man could have with three boys?
Harold: Well, there are 32 chapters, I believe; but that’s not how it works.
For example, there are quotes in the public school section after each chapter. President Garfield said: “Take off the strong curb of discipline and morality, and you will be an old man before your twenties are passed. Preserve these forces. Do not burn them out… in idleness or crime.” Now, I recommend that they spend three weeks to a month on that one quote—it’s packed—there’s so much wisdom in that.
Every chapter has six or seven quotes in it that further take the conversation in many different directions.
What’s going to happen, when you are mentoring your kids—you will soon see where their hurts are. If you’re a creative person, you can do little things to help them.
One of the things I did—we try to stamp all of our children. One of my boys—he just looked like a banker. When he was in middle school, I put my finger in his face; and I said, “You’re going to be a banker,” because I saw a banker in him. He had a banker’s personality. Our children need that—they need to be stamped, because so many of them don’t have a father to follow. They need somebody to follow—so we stamp them.
Dennis: And you’re just talking about speaking words of belief.
Dennis: And you may be the only person, outside of a coach or a teacher—that speaks into that young person’s life—
Dennis: —and gets into some of these conversations around life skills that they need to learn about.
Harold: And let me say this again—you look at all the negativity that they are exposed to—I can’t imagine being 15 years old and having a hand-held device with access to the internet. I can’t imagine; you know?—
—all the negativity that they are drenched with. We have to get out there. It’s a fight, and let’s start drenching them with some positivity.
Dennis: Harold, you mentioned earlier about the issues these kids bring with them into school.
Dennis: I’m thinking of all the other issues that are brought into these kids’ lives by their peers.
Harold: Oh, yes; absolutely.
Dennis: I mean, we’ve got all kinds of issues today around human sexuality, gender, morality. I mean, you talk about a setup for kids to be confused and, frankly, despairing of life. They desperately need someone to show them what a straight line looks like.
Harold: They need a North Star.
I had a college student come to me—and again, my wife is the Director of the University of Illinois Black Chorus. She averages 90 students—between 80 and 100 students—in her choir every semester. It gives us a fertile ground for mentoring. One young boy came up to me; and he says: “I’ve never seen this before. You all actually like each other!”—you know, we’re husband and wife. He said, “You actually like each other!”
People: “They need a North Star. They need a North Star.”
And having rejected the Bible, many other worldviews are trying to vie for primary attention. I think that, as Christians, we need to work harder to get in there. Let me say this—which you might have to cut—but; “You know how you scare an evangelical Christian / do you know how to scare an evangelical Christian?” Well, I’m going to tell you—all you have to do is say, “Church and State”; and they’ll go: “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!” The schools have scared us out of the schools, and we’ve got to get back in there and just show the love of Jesus Christ. I call it the “Frank People’s Principle”—just showing the love of Jesus Christ is so powerful.
Bob: And if we’re going in to help develop leadership skills in young people, there’s an open door for that; isn’t there?
Harold: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: If we’re going in and saying, “I want to lead a backyard Bible club,”—
Bob: —the school’s not going to say, “Yes,” to that. They’re going to be afraid there is going to be a lawsuit slapped on them.
Harold: Yes. And our society wants all the benefits of Christianity without Christ;—
Harold: —but for me, that’s impossible; because wherever I go, He goes. And He will—when I leave, He’s still going to be there.
Bob: We can go in through the open door of leadership—
Bob: —and the aroma of Christ comes with us.
Dennis: We started a club—the name of the junior high and the high school were Robinson Junior High / Robinson High School—and we started a club called RSVP.
Dennis: And it was an outreach to bring the good news of Jesus Christ into the school, but it was done after hours. We bribed the kids to come with pizza—
Bob: Hold on. Was RSVP—Robinson School—
Dennis: RSVP: Robinson Student Venture Party—and who doesn’t want to come to a party?
Dennis: But we had relevant speakers. And you know what?
Harold: What’s that?
Dennis: That was back in the mid-1980s.
Dennis: RSVP is still at that school today.
Harold: Oh, wonderful—wonderful.
Dennis: Student led.
—because students are looking for a place to belong to—a place to find what’s good.
You just raised an issue, a moment ago—I just want to camp on for a moment. There are a lot of these young people today in these schools who have never seen a married couple.
Harold: Right; right.
Dennis: Now, I want our listeners to understand what I just said. I mean, they’ve never seen a couple like Harold and Ollie in love with each other, who are married and been married for over—
Harold: —37 years.
Dennis: —over 37 years.
Dennis: So, how can they be expected that they’re ever going to have one on their own if they’ve never seen one? You may say: “Wait a second! That’s from another planet!” No, no, no—that’s in your city / in your community—some of which are small communities / some are big.
But this is the breakdown of the family brought very close to young people, who are in your schools; and they need your help. That’s why we are challenging them [listeners]. Give them your best challenge to become one of these leadership development men or women in the public schools.
Harold: Well, I would like to challenge you that: “If you get involved—and I’m speaking from 20 years of experience of watching people do this—you’re going to get more from it than you give.” I’ve never had a mentor that felt that he gave more than he received. The benefits will extrapolate out into your family—it’ll just affect everything. It’s impossible to give in the Lord’s name and for His glory and not receive more than you give.
Bob: We have on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, links to some videos you’ve put together / some information for folks, who are listening and just saying, “You know, maybe, this is something I could do.” Maybe, it’s folks who have retired and they’ve got a little more time on their hands than they used to have.
Dennis: And they don’t know where to start, Bob. Harold’s got a video for school administrators that helps them understand this is sane—it makes sense / it is wisdom. It’s not proselytizing these young people.
It’s a workable program that’s being used in dozens of places around the country; and it’ll equip you to be able to do it, as a parent.
Bob: Go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link to the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program website. There, you will find all that Harold created for mentoring young men / mentoring young women—elementary age, middle school, junior high, senior high. There’s material available / curriculum available. Wherever your passion is—and if, maybe, there is an elementary school near you; maybe, there’s a high school near you; or maybe, it’s all the way across town—but you’d like to get involved and help some young people gain wisdom—we’ve got the material for you at the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program website. You’ll find that when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link we’ve provided there.
Then, I also want to mention—
—we’ve got a video series that we put together a few years back—it’s the Stepping Up® video series for men. What we’ve found is that a lot of dads have decided to get together with other dads and go through this material with their teenage sons. Summertime is a particularly good time of year to do that; because the calendar is a little lighter, and you can pick a Tuesday evening—or whatever works for you guys in the summer—get together once a week over at somebody’s house / have some food, watch the video, have a conversation. The reports we’ve gotten back from the dads who have done this is that it has fueled some really great conversations between fathers and sons—some transparency / some great bonding relationships that have formed.
I’d just encourage you, as a dad—if you’ve got a 16- or a 17- or an 18-year-old son, who is going to be home this summer, why don’t you talk to him about getting four or five of his buddies and their dads to come over once a week and go through the Stepping Up video series this summer?
You can find out more about the Stepping Up series, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you have any questions about anything we’ve talked about here today, give us a call—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, you think about the magnitude of all we’ve talked about today and, sometimes, we can look at what’s going on all across the country and say, “How can one person make any difference?” And the reality is one person can make a difference in the life one, or two, or three, or five young men. If enough people are doing that, that’s how change happens—one community, one home, one family at a time.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation with Harold Davis as we talk about how you help young men and women in your community gain wisdom. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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