My Mentors: A Man’s Man – Mel

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. 
(Ben Franklin)

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires” (William Arthur Ward)

 

“Mel” was/is an Indian man of around 30 whom I met, and worked with at the Ardiem Steel Foundry in Vancouver between 1977 (17yrs) -1980 (20yrs). When I first met you Mel, I was a young man of 17 and had only been on my own for a little more than a year and had left a painful and abusive home environment. I was unsure of who I was, felt isolated, and certainly lacked any confidence in myself. I was a bruised young man who only recently had recovered from the catastrophic and life-changing mistake, moral crime, of nearly killing an old man with reckless and stupid behavior. Since I entered the adult work-force so young, I truly felt out of place, alone and with a sense that I had something to prove. I felt that I needed to demonstrate strength and maturity in order to feel part of the team and someone who, in spite of my young age, could still make a contribution to this super-man’s world of molten metal and searing heat.

553154_10151547937320733_1777376277_nSome of my first memories of you Mel were of your unbelievable strength and I could see from your build that you had certainly done some weight training when you competed as an Olympic Wrestler. I was also a weightlifter at the time and so maybe this is how, or where, we first connected. I also remember that you always seemed to acknowledge when I did something well, or when I demonstrated unusual strength for my size and age. One of my fondest memories were when we both worked on the pouring floor and would challenge each other to see how many of the 500-1000lb moulds we could push along the tracks. But most of all Mel, I always remember you as being so quietly and subtly supportive, almost invisibly at times. You would sometimes watch me when I would try something that was clearly beyond my strength and may have even led to an injury. You would just suddenly “be there” even when I didn’t know you were around watching. You were always so respectful of my feelings and pride, and you would gently encourage me to allow you to help, or perform the task yourself since you probably knew it was beyond my abilities or thought I might injure myself. And you never even had to say those words aloud, almost as if you knew they might hurt my feelings and so you would just gently gesture, or give me a kind and compassionate look that said, or asked with a smile, “let me do this Johnny”.

Then there was the incredible interest you showed in my diet and weightlifting workouts. You started to bring in bags of fruit and that thermos filled with chicken wings and the other thermos filled with that gross-tasting vegetable, fruit and who-knows-what mixture. On top of that you would often buy me numerous bottles of juice or other items high in carbs or protein from the lunch truck. But my most favorite memories Mel, were during those afternoon shifts when you would notice me walking towards you from the far end of the foundry, often from the furnace, and you would take off your hard-hat, assume a wrestler’s stance and gesture towards me to (attempt) to take you down. Of course I never did, even when I tried to sneak up behind you and catch you off-guard. You were such a powerful man that you could have easily demonstrated your superior strength over me, yet you remained calm, gentle and always just allowed me to give it my best shot and then you would show how quickly, but gently, you were able to easily overpower me. Just enough of a lesson for me to want to try again, and again, and again. Mel, you were the first true hero of a male role model in my life, my first Renaissance Man. You allowed me to be the young fragile boy that I was, while also showing me the respect, compassion and even love of a father, a mentor, a colleague, an equal. You never felt the need to “tell me” anything, judge me, or outright dismiss anything I said or did. You never seemed to feel the need to flaunt your superior wisdom, experience or knowledge as an adult can sometimes do when they “dictate” or “lecture” a child. You could have played the all-powerful, all-knowing and controlling grown-up role. Yet you showed me the respect of an equal, the love of a father for a child.

Mel, you were the first man whose character and behavior I wanted to emulate, the first man I wanted to be like. You possessed remarkable strength, wisdom and courage, any one of which you could have forced into our relationship as so many men, so many people, often do as a sign of their superiority. But clearly you had another kind of strength that I would not have recognized back then, but do now. You possessed the inner strength and selfless compassion of a spiritual warrior. One with True Courage, True Heart and True Strength. An inner strength, compassionate heart and profound wisdom which worked behind the scenes. An inner spiritual strength which never required you to make a bold demonstration, but simply a kind or gently nudge. I will never forgot you Mel, you were, are, a man’s man. A warrior’s warrior, a hero of a man in my heart and memories. If I have managed to become a fraction of the man you were, the man you are, then I have you to thank for this Mel. Thank you my friend, my guide as I grew from a boy to a man with your gentle, yet powerful encouragement and profoundly deep spiritual strength and wisdom.

Note: I came across this image (above) of a Vancouver foundry and there is so much in that shot that looks familiar, the walls, that door, the pouring floor and the size of the heat (ladle), it is possible this is the same foundry I worked at in the 70’s.

An Old Hippie and Jolly Mystic Dude with a background (or interests) in psychology, sexuality, philosophy, spirituality, consciousness, contemplative practices and technology. In a few different previous lives/careers I have been a youth-care worker and program developer; statistician; database developer; web developer; WordPress developer; Linux administrator and open-source consultant; network/website security administrator; social-media and web marketing specialist; male waiter on Ladies Nights and a pourer of molten steel.

I currently hang out in Gibson’s BC while attending Alef Trust (Middlesex University) as a Master’s student in Consciousness, Spirituality & Transpersonal Psychology. When I am not reading, studying, writing, blogging, listening to music or contemplating my navel, I like to spend time taking photos, hiking, 4x4ing, camping, kayaking or challenging social, sexual, gender and intellectual stereotypes.

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My Mentors: A Man’s Man – Mel by Johnny Stork is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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