Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Handshake

This post was inspired by former president George H.W. Bush, a member of the Greatest Generation,  who recently passed away. To me, he was an authentic example of the very masculine virtues of courage, commitment, loyalty, honor, compassion, and genuine leadership.  I pray that his life has inspired a new generation of leaders to carry on his legacy.
"It's possible to tell things by a handshake.  
I like the 'looking in the eye' syndrome.  It conveys interest.  
I like the firm, though not bone-crushing shake.  
The bone crusher is trying too hard to 'macho it.'  
The clammy or diffident handshake, fairly or unfairly, get me off to a 
bad start with a person. - George. H. W. Bush
Last weekend our trucking company hosted it's annual Christmas party.  This year we asked our two oldest sons, Benedict and Andrew, if they wanted to tag along, and to our surprise, they said yes. It was our hope that they would not only get to meet many of the amazing co-workers and employees, whom we work with, but also experience the joy of coming together for a meal to celebrate the blessings of the past year.

After a hearty steak dinner and some good ol' country swing dancing (yeah, we hired a DJ!), the evening slowly began to wind down. Little-by-little employees came to bid their good-byes, to offer gratitude to Steve for being a pretty great boss, and to wish us a Merry Christmas.

The parting conversation that really took us by surprise involved Ben and Andrew.  Several men approached Steve and shared with him how impressed they were with the boys' handshake. You read that right.  It wasn't their academic or athletic success or their handsome faces that made a strong impression (c'mon, it's a mama's right to say so!).

Nope, it was the handshake.

Most young men don't know how to shake another man's hand, or look him in the eye when introducing themselves.  But your boys sure do.

And with that, we knew we'd been doing something right in this whole mission of raising men. Score one for grace and perseverance!

Around the age of five or six, Steve takes a bit of time with each of the boys to teach them a proper handshake, how to introduce themselves, and the importance of making eye-contact when they do so.

Last week, as Steve reeled in Charlie and Joseph from the Lego table for a refresher lesson, I decided to observe the master at work.  In the past, I never really listened to Steve's instruction on this topic with the boys. But this time, as I slogged through a heaping sinkful of dirty dishes, I was completely enamored with their interaction:

Charlie, are you a son of God?
Yes, Dad.

Are you strong, courageous, and a boy of integrity?
Yes, Dad.

Well, when you meet someone for the first time, they don't know those things about you, they don't know who you are.  But if you stand up straight, look them in the eye, and speak your name with confidence, they will know exactly who you are.
Okay, Dad!

I understood, right then and there, that a boy's handshake (and a man's for that matter), is not just a common formality.  It's a powerful communicative experience of self, and of the other, for both the giver and the receiver.

Now, some of you may be saying, my boy is shy, I don't think it's fair to force him to shake hands. You're right, you shouldn't force him.  We've got a couple of shy ones in our bunch, too.  Shyness isn't looked upon with favor in our current culture, but it should not be shamed or dismissed.

I could write an entire post on the quiet, contemplative nature of my shy guys.  They are beautifully made in the image and likeness of God, and I have learned mountains upon mountains about the complexity of the human person from them!

We teach and train our sons every day, giving them tools that we believe will help them as they grow into manhood.  And we practice with them at home! Practice builds confidence, and confidence makes the moment of truth a little less intimidating.

Most of us have insecurities or weaknesses that can sometimes make social interactions  uncomfortable.  But I believe that, in certain moments, we are called to rise up out of those insecurities for a greater good. In this case, it's recognizing and acknowledging another person.

To give you an example of how we converse with the boys in matters of shyness, we gently remind them:
It's okay for you to feel shy! But, you will spend the rest of your life meeting new people, and we believe that you have what it takes to rise above your shyness, in that moment, and acknowledge the other person in a dignified way. You never know who you might meet! Don't miss the opportunity!

Boys are pretty basic. They don't always need flow charts, and field trips and crafts to communicate the simple lessons of life (trust me, I've tried all of the above, cue the sweat and tears).  They just need someone with a little grit and conviction to take a minute to teach them the life lessons that are so easily overlooked.  Lessons like a proper handshake.

"To build self-image, you need to join the smile, firm handshake, 
and compliment club.  -Zig Ziglar