One of my favorite shows that the Discovery channel ever produced was their Human Planet series. It was a 8 week series that highlighted how different people all over the world live. My favorite story was from the mountains episode. It highlight a rite of passage for a 13 yr old boy from Mongolia. In order to become a man in his culture he must capture, train, and hunt with an eagle. In the episode you see him climb down the side of a cliff to kidnap a baby eagle from its nest. You see him train his eagle. Then you see him while riding horse back through a foot of snow, go hunting with his eagle for a fox. It has to be one of the most epic and amazing things I have ever seen, especially from a 13 yr old boy.
In all teenagers I believe there is an innate desire to prove themselves. To show to themselves and others that they have what it take to move up to the next phase of life and responsibility. Rites of passage do this for both teenage boys and girls. The next two weeks I will be highlighting two posts from Focus On The Family that address this very issue. This post and the episode from Human Planet are a reminder that our teenagers can sometime accomplish far more than we give them credit for. And by creating rites of passage that give them the opportunities to prove themselves we are telling them that we believe in them and see how incredibly awesome God has made them.
I can’t wait to help Maddox and Jonas kidnap their first eagle and go fox hunting in Mongolia.
In this first post I will highlight Rites of Passages for Your Son. It contains 6 articles that give great ideas for each stage in a teenage boys development.
Rites of Passage for Your Son
by Robert Lewis
David Wills faced a monumental task. Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania appointed him to oversee the burial of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg. In addition, the 32-year-old attorney was to plan a dedication ceremony for this pivotal Civil War battle.
The task was daunting. Following the July 1863 conflict, Gettysburg had taken on the appearance — and the stench — of an open-air mortuary. Thousands of human bodies lay scattered over the fields and hills, decaying in the heat. Others were buried but, as Willis reported to Governor Curtin, “in many instances arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude, and my attention had been directed to several places where the hogs were actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them.”1 Human scavengers picked at the exposed bodies for anything of value. Meanwhile, grieving relatives scoured the fields, searching for fathers and sons. Gettysburg had become a “carnival of carnage.” Like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, the grisly features of death were pervasive, revolting, visceral.
Something had to be done. David Wills did it. But at every turn, he was like a man stumbling in the dark. He started by forming an interstate commission to finance the project. Seventeen acres were purchased for a cemetery, and a company was retained to exhume, prepare and bury the bodies. (Willis had hoped to have the burial completed before the November ceremony, but it wouldn’t be finished until the following spring.)
Having resolved the pressing issues of burial and hygiene, the agent turned his attention toward the ceremony itself. Willis desired to memorialize the sacrifices of these brave men by staging an elaborate ceremony. According to the conventional wisdom of his day, this entailed securing a powerful orator who could lend dignity to the event, someone who would speak for two hours (as was the custom) and bring a lofty perspective to the proceedings. Without question, Edward Everett was the man.
An Ivy League scholar and former Secretary of State, Everett was considered the preeminent orator of his generation. He had dedicated the battlefields at Lexington and Concord as well as Bunker Hill. Almost as an afterthought, David Wills also extended an invitation — two months later — to President Lincoln, with the request that Lincoln deliver only “a few appropriate remarks.”
On November 19, 1863, an estimated 20,000 people gathered for the ceremony. They had traveled by horse, train and carriage from as far away as Minnesota to participate in the event. Under a blue sky, Lincoln and Everett, along with a host of other dignitaries, sat on a raised platform amid a sea of onlookers.
The ceremony began. First there was music. Then a prayer. And more music. Then it was time for the keynote address. Edward Everett’s presentation was worthy of his reputation. For two hours, he held the crowd in thrall with his fiery language, his childlike animation and his detailed description of the battle.
Following a hymn, Lincoln stepped to the podium. “Four score and seven years ago,” he began … and before anyone knew it, he was finished. The crowd, which hadn’t expected much, was still surprised by the brevity of his speech. Historian Garry Wills, in his much-acclaimed book Lincoln at Gettysburg, alludes to the story of a photographer who, expecting the president to be at the podium for a while, missed his shot while he slowly set up his camera.2 In 272 words, the president said what he wanted to say and then sat down. The choir sang a dirge, the Reverend H.L. Baugher gave the benediction, and it was over.
The rest, as they say, is history.