My grandfather had a difficult childhood. The son of a rough and often-absent cowboy, his mother died when he was young. He was shuffled from relative to friend and grew up without much disciple or direction. Later in life he would tell his grandchildren of the time he stood at a critical crossroads in his life, when he met a “wise and noble” man at his church. This man took the time to guide him with his example and influence. He exemplified the adage, “A man stands tallest when he stoops to help a child.” My grandfather never forgot him; he owed him a great deal. He would quote this poem to describe his experience.
He stood at the crossroads all alone,
The sunlight in his face.
He had no thought for the world unknown—
He was set for a manly race.
But the roads stretched east, and the roads stretched west,
And the lad knew not which road was best;
So he chose the road that led him down,
And he lost the race and victor’s crown.
He was caught at last in an angry snare
Because no one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better road.
Another day, at the self-same place,
A boy with high hopes stood.
He, too, was set for a manly race;
He, too, was seeking the things that were good;
But one was there who the roads did know,
And that one showed him which way to go.
So he turned from the road that would lead him down,
And he won the race and the victor’s crown.
He walks today the highway fair
Because one stood at the crossroads there
To show him the better way.
(The Upward Reach, Sadie Tiller Crawley)
Let’s not forget the millions of young men at crossroads. They too are “set for a manly race”. This month, as we celebrate fathers, I hope men, particularly, are inspired to use their greatest power – the power of their righteous influence. They can change the course of a young man’s life, son or stranger. They can inspire him to go upward, to win the race – rather than downward to lesser roads. Within all men’s sphere of influence there is a young man who needs a strong and wise arm to guide him. If you help this precious young man, generations will be shaped by the victory he achieves.