Masculinity, it makes a difference

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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Perhaps you have heard the tale of the old man walking a beach where starfish were up on shore for as far as the eye could see. They were multiple and overwhelming. His response was to pick up one at a time and tenderly place it back into the ocean. His task was a mighty one. A younger man walked up and asked the old man why he was wasting his time in this endeavor. “Just move along. Give up already! You are laboring in vain; you’re not going to make a difference!” The old man picked up another starfish and put it into the water. “Maybe. But I made a difference to that one.”

The battle is tremendous, before we even begin, we are exhausted by the idea of it. We see others walking by and hear the cries of “ridiculous!” This battle has been since the beginning of time. It always will be. The ones who walk right on by will follow one after another into eternity. Oh, but what joy the ones who stop bring. There is a battle. And there are warriors. Some are your neighbors.

The Americus Times Recorder sat down with some of our warriors. We asked for insight into being the man who makes a difference to even the one. They would never claim to have such a talent, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why we so desperately need them to speak. So, for a moment, we get a glimpse into the heart of a man, the heart of a warrior. As the second of our series on masculinity, it is our joy to once again present David Stinchcum, William Rooks, Tom Lorenz, Stephen Woodson, Gabe Jacobs, Mark Scott, Don Gilman, Eric Bryant and Mike Tracy.

Americus Times Recorder (ATR): As boys there is often a draw to superheroes. Halloween after Halloween boys show up on my porch decked out as a superhero. It’s deadly serious stuff. When they flex a muscle or hold a weapon, he is not kidding. I have a pretty good idea this doesn’t die easily. I have seen suits which might as well be capes, I have seen men show up at ballfields intent to coach great performances, I have seen first responders who will not stop, I have seen the husband, brother and dad who intently shows up for his family and friends when it’s almost impossible to stand. Would you agree a man, from boy to elder, craves a battle to fight and an adventure to live? Why or why not?

David Stinchcum:  From the beginning, God created man to tame the land, lord the animals and “catch” fish. There is a challenge and adventure placed on our hearts.

David Stinchum and Lee Graft, bringing home the spoils

Eric Bryant: I totally agree, it’s inside of all men and interaction with active men helps promotes the tiger inside of men. Wanting to be the person of positivity and a role model for other men is something all men want to be, and they are born that way in my opinion.

Gabe Jacobs: Starting as a boy and through life to an elder, a man craves a battle to fight and an adventure to live. As a man, I always seem to be competing. I think it is just in our DNA. I want to do bigger and better things, and I strive to be the best I can be. I’ve learned everyday life has some of the biggest battles. Learning how to be present, putting others in front of myself and being kind when I’m angry all have been a fight worth winning and honestly, I’m still in the middle of it. Standing up for what I believe in and sharing Jesus are the everyday missions require boldness and courage.

William Rooks: I’m a huge sports fan and I crave competition.  I think men have something deep in their DNA where they need to win.  We want to win with our families, we want to win in our careers, and we want to win in our sports.  What I’ve learned is the key to winning in life is winning in our spiritual life first.  We have a men’s ministry at Central Baptist Church, where we are “helping men win”.  If we attack our spiritual life like we attack our other battles and adventures, we will feel we are winning the “fight” we all crave to win.

Mike Tracy: Elements of the culture demand men to protect our society. If a man is talked out of this task, there can be horrific and deadly results. Make no mistake, primary sacrifice in war as well as the security of society has been the provenance of men for centuries.  Absolutely it’s serious stuff. The next time you see that tiny steely eyed Batman on your porch he may have traded his bat belt for a bulletproof vest, a badge and be standing between you and life changing devastation. The push for victory despite the odds is irreplaceable and, on those shoulders, rest our peace and safety. So much of this we learn through competition with other men, dedication, love and faith. So, give him the candy.

Meet the Mike Tracy Family: son Dylan Tracy, wife Earleen and Mike

 ATR: Who taught you how to be a man?

 Don Gilman: I’m still learning. But I’ve been blessed with many great role models in my life which I took pieces from. Each has made me who I am today. My Daddy, chief influencer, gave me some great advice many years ago. “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no” which comes from Matthew 5:37. I was also blessed with two grandfathers and two uncles that kept a close eye on me growing up.

David Stinchcum: The fathers in my life.  My grandfather was a colonel in the Army and was married for 75 years.  He loved his country, family and the outdoors. My father! Love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control–I have seen a living example of these walked out in his life.

Eric Bryant: I was blessed with my dad being in the home. Along with him and many male relatives, they took my being a man on as their responsibility.

 Gabe Jacobs: For me, figuring out what kind of man I wanted to be started early around 9 years old when I had to experience a hard life change. I knew then I wanted my family to be stable, and I had to figure out how to make that happen. When I was 11, my stepdad John Crook came into the picture, and he taught me so many life skills. He demonstrated how to provide for a family, earn a living, work hard and how to be independent. I had many baseball coaches too. Ken Oxford taught me the game early on. Marty McDonald, Jeff Benton and Chip Langston honed my skills and gave me a good work ethic. Kevin Taylor was my high school ball coach, and he taught me how to stick things out through the good and the bad. These men all played a huge role in my becoming the man I am today. So many things were learned on the baseball field; how to deal with success and most importantly how to deal with failure. They all taught me the value of being a good teammate. Other men also contributed through my teen years. Ray Duke and Lee Sullens were my youth pastors, and they showed me an individual relationship with the Lord was possible and vital. Fred Edmunds, now my father-in-law, came along when I was 15, and I learned how a godly man loves his family and participates in church. Not one individual man taught me. Instead, these great men and others all contributed and played a huge part in who I am today.

Gabe Jacobs enjoying his part in the game

William Rooks: My father Bryan Rooks, was the best man I’ve ever known.  He taught me how to raise my family in church, how to treat people (He is famous for saying “It doesn’t cost a dime to be nice to someone”), and how to treat my wife (by the way he treated my mom).  If I could be half the man he was then I will consider myself successful. However, I’ve had many other men who have invested in me.  My father-in-law, my coaches in high school, men in our church, as well as coaches and administrators I have been fortunate enough to work with at Schley County.

Mike Tracy: Who taught you to be a man is not an easily answered question at all. The names of the men who influenced my development would mean nothing to the reader. My appreciation for the good men who took the time and cared enough to give me direction and advice is deep and abiding. Even the lessons that were not so gentle. My father, my first baseball coach, an older friend, and even my own son (I probably disgusted them more times than I want to know with ill-conceived decisions) all have served in this role for me. I remember those who have passed on daily and often wish they were around to bank a problem off of. I remain humbly grateful for their help.

 ATR: Masculinity bestows masculinity. If a young boy isn’t validated by his father, where will he find that validation? Who has the power to validate him as “having what it takes”?

David Stinchcum: Coaches! These men almost walk on water in a young man’s life.  Winston Churchill said, ” Where there is great power there is great responsibility.” Coaches, you shape more than you know.

Eric Bryant: Young men can get that validation from other places as well, school, community, and church.

Tom Lorenz: I think becoming a man takes time and takes careful observation of other men and what they do right and wrong. I honestly have to say I am a composite of what my father did right, improving on what my father could have done better, and picking up successful traits I observed in several men (some role models but many were peers) throughout my life. I don’t think I ever felt the need for another man to validate me. The best validation I got was love from my father, but the second best was to see the fruits of my developing and changing how I approach my life as a man.

William Rooks: This is where role models come into play.  Coaches, teachers and Sunday school leaders have the ability change a kid’s life by simply believing in them.

Taking in the beauty of the outdoors: Laura and William Rooks

Mike Tracy: In the course of my life the culture of encouragement and development of young men by good men has proven a universal one. Nothing can replace a present caring father. By the same token a father cannot be everything. I have been given guidance by men from all walks of life, all of it well intentioned and heartfelt, but learned as much by watching and learning from other’s successes and mistakes. However, nothing replaces pitting yourself against a foe or an obstacle and winning when you doubted there was a chance.

ATR: In many ways you serve as an umbrella. Umbrellas are men who provide shelter, especially to women and girls. There is a tender strength we depend upon whether it be to hold the door, tote the heavy stuff, bring home the harvest, hold the outpost, fix something broken or hurt, set an example of leadership or simply be fierce on our behalf when we can no longer do it ourselves. How intentional are you about being those things, is it something that comes naturally, is it a chore or do you welcome the opportunity to be the umbrella?

 David Stinchcum:  I love the quote “let your servant’s towel be bigger than your ego.”  I want my son to see that my servant’s towel is huge and used.   I want him to see me be the umbrella in the unscripted moments of life.

Eric Bryant: I take pride in being the umbrella, and because of the willingness to be the umbrella, it comes naturally and easily for me.

Eric Bryant and his bride Suleania

Tom Lorenz: I think some of the tenderness towards woman and girls comes naturally to most men. I think I always can improve, however. I know my capacity for planning almost doesn’t exist! Because of this I welcome the chore of thinking ahead for my woman’s birthday or making a scavenger hunt on Christmas to make my little daughter’s face light up. It is nice to naturally be a gentleman, but it is rewarding to go outside of your comfort zone and show how you can always be better.

William Rooks: I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by girls.  At my house I have a wife and two daughters.  It’s important I am a source of strength for them.  It is something I cherish.  I want to set an example for my girls, so they know what to look for when they begin searching for a husband.  The last thing I would want to hear is they don’t want anyone like their dad.

Stephen Woodson: All of these are things I had to learn over the years as my father was absent, so I welcome the opportunity to be an umbrella for others. I want to instill in my sons what it means to be a man and a father and, in my daughters, what to look for in a man. It is very important that they are supportive and present. I am very intentional about doing these things.

Stephen Woodson shows off his girls, L-R Stephanya, Stephen, Hailey and wife, Sarinda

Mike Tracy: Being an umbrella is a combination of natural inclinations and the teachings of three men I can specifically name from my youth. Reaching a handout to the weak and helpless is immensely gratifying in itself. As much as I enjoy the role and am glad to do it for its own sake, I am not sure you have taken enough in consideration when asking the question. While those I help need it at the moment or something is way beyond their ability, they all have strengths I do not, and I find more often than not I am paying it forward.

ATR:  Is there anything you want to reiterate or let our readers in on?

Eric Bryant: We are born and built to be the men of this land, it’s time that we stand up and do what we are supposed to do. We can also help and assist women and not take anything away from them.

Mike Tracy: A man must believe: his skills and courage and be willing to defeat his foes, love and commitment can be deep and abiding, justice balances the wheel of the universe and good will triumph over evil. He must know justice, peace and defense of the helpless are all worth fighting for. Without a set of beliefs such as these, societal demands will not take place. Society would not be as it is without the sacrifice of good men.

ATR: A fun one! What tool do you always keep in arm’s length? And we would love to hear why.

I have a little story about my friend, Don Gilman. I asked if he had a pocketknife on him. He looked around quizzically and asked, “I got pants on, don’t I?” as if I had asked the silliest of all the silly questions. He then laughed, pulled it out of his pocket and told its story and the story of his grandfather who taught him to never be without one.

David Stinchcum:  .45 Sig Sauer. “Never shoot a large caliber man with a small caliber bullet.”

Eric Bryant: Me being a man of faith, I always keep a prayer on my tongue and in my heart and that gives me the drive I need every minute of my life.

Tom Lorenz: I keep a few tools handy, but the unique tool I keep is a snake hook. I am a herpetologist and have learned the value of reptiles and amphibians. There is a manly aspect here because of the testosterone involved in braving dangerous things like rattlesnakes and crocodilians. But it is more about compassion and using the snake hook to safely allow venomous snakes to get across the road.

Besides being hilarious, one of my personal umbrellas and a solid friend, Mike Tracy is also my gun trainer. On one of our trips, I asked if he brought a gun because I didn’t see it. His response was to look at me incredulously as if I didn’t know him at all and say, “Not seeing is the whole idea.” I pressed him later, and he never would confess where he carries. But he did confess other things. He began digging in his pockets and out came a Leatherman, a flashlight, a pocketknife, a cellphone and a lighter. He promised me there was a Sig Sauer 365 within arm’s reach. I absolutely took his word for it. Walkaway here: breathe easier next to man wearing cargo pants, some actually have cargo and know how to use it.

William Rooks: I’m not a real handy person.  I like to say I don’t have any talents one needs to be an adult. I’m terrible at golf, I can’t bowl, and I can’t fix anything.  I guess my tool would be a fungo bat.  I don’t have many talents an adult needs to be successful, but I can hit a mean infield/outfield at baseball practice.

Mark Scott: A multibit screwdriver and a pair of channel lock pliers.  If it’s loose and needs tightening or tight and needs loosening, I’m your man.

This is what Scott joy looks like: Mark, Julie and some grands enjoying the day

George W. Bush’s administration initiated and put millions of dollars into The Healthy Marriage Initiative as well as The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. At one time our nation deemed healthy families and fathers in particular to be of national significance. Was it a huge battle? Absolutely. Did it matter? Most definitely. Is it a battle which remains? Everyday. So, who is going to carry it out? Counselor and author John Eldredge, who strongly influenced the questions asked of these men, contends that “masculinity bestows masculinity.” There is a role only a man can play. The research bears out the ills which are manifested when our men are absent. The bad news is there is a shore full of stranded starfish. The good news is men are going about the work of getting us home. Look for them, be one of them, there is so much riding on a man playing out the role specifically designed for him. It definitely makes a difference.

Part one of our conversation can be found in the printed edition of the ATR dated June 15, 2022 or online at Again, thank you to these men who set an example for all of us. Their hope is more men will join the battlefield. Our hope is you will encourage the men in your life with your gratitude and confidence.