Perrysburg, OH – Every now and then we need a reminder of how great we have it. The message (to the left) comes from Smuckers of F3 Black Swamp (Perrysburg, OH). JonMarc Grodi, a 35 year-old husband and dad of six shorties under the age of 12, is a leader in his community. He also happens to be only two week’s into his F3 journey.
What brought Smuckers out into the Gloom was hearing about it from a local priest and friend. A “man’s man” as he described him. With his brother-in-law in tow, Smuckers made his first post on an early Wednesday morning. The guys introduced themselves, handed him a ruck and they just walked and talked. As Smuckers tells the story, you can see how great it was to just be one of the guys.
Grodi is the Executive Director of a Catholic apostolate called “Coming Home Network International” that offers a network of support for those converting to Catholicism. He also hosts a television program on EWTN (The Catholic Television Channel) inviting people to tell their faith journeys. On a local level, he and his wife have a passion for family ministries. As a leader in his local diocese, people come to him often for advice. He’s the guy that facilitates discussion.
But at F3, he’s just a guy. “The ease of the camaraderie and friendship just came together because we were doing something together. I enjoyed the simplicity – no equipment needed, no specific facility, and it is outdoors.”
Smuckers and I talked a while about what it means to be a leader for our kids, the value of doing hard things, and why men need to live in community together. He gets it.
As we talked about our sons leading the future generations, he helped remind me that we set their course. “It all comes down to what we do. We can want our boys to have less screen time or to be more active, but ultimately it comes down to us. They are going to do what we do. We have to model it. It can’t be fake, they can sense inauthenticity a mile away. Boys really need fathers to challenge them and bring them up. You have to be who you want your sons to be. I want my son to be happy and healthy. I want him to be outdoors and I want him to accept and welcome challenge and encouragement from other men.”
So how does F3 do that? Sometimes it’s doing difficult things in the elements and outside of our comfort zones. His second post took the outdoor core principle to the extreme. The tabata workout started with a drizzle and went full downpour halfway through it. Then came the lightning. “It made a strong beginning to a good day.”
Other times it’s about doing the hard thing. “There’s a thin membrane between our comfortable life and the life of adventure that we want. Sometimes you need a tiny push to go there. It doesn’t take much. It just takes a friend – a brother – to push you over the edge and then you’re having an adventure.”
This isn’t just in the Gloom. Men were designed to live in community. We hunted in packs. We had skills that were beneficial to our communities. Some were builders, smiths, bakers, masons, and farmers. Others were educators, pastors, fishermen, and tailors. We survived because we worked together.
We continue to read about the loneliness epidemic in men, but as Smuckers puts it, “We know we were put on this earth to be men for others – to be warriors, to be builders, and to be leaders. We can talk about the lack of community all we want and the need for true friendships, but if we’re not doing those things together, it’s artificial. We can feel it. It’s just another thing on our schedule. So we need to be doing things together as men.”
That’s why F3 works. Men build relationships over shared suffering or shared purpose. “We share the ups and the downs. We live the faith together. The Psalms remind us of the happy and the sad. Some days you’re David dancing before the tabernacle and other days you’re asking why and feeling forsaken. We must live together sharing each other’s wins and commiserating in defeat.”
So tomorrow when you’re wondering if the wake-up is worth it, know that a man out there needs you and you need them. In my ten years of F3, I’ve never regretted posting. As for Smuckers, he says he’ll keep coming back. He likes the fitness, but realizes the challenge is what will keep him going. Be that guy.
– Italian Job