“You should join us Wednesday night,” my friend Coy said to me as we were finishing up our breakfast meeting.
“What’s Wednesday night?” I asked curiously.
“A bunch of guys meet up at Washington Park every Wednesday evening and we walk around the park.” Then he paused for a second. “Actually, we do more than that.”
I couldn’t let that last comment go. “What do you mean you do more than that?”
Coy straightened up and looked me right in the eyes. “I mean, it’s not as much about the walk as it is about what transpires during the walk. We call it the Man Walk. It is about men getting together to bond, share their feelings, and support each other. It’s powerful. You have to experience it for yourself.”
“Really! How many guys participate?” I asked.
“It varies—anywhere from 6 to 12 men. Most live near the park and walk over.”
“So, tell me more about these men?”
“They’re doctors, lawyers, and businessmen like us. Most are married and have families.” And then his voice softened. “These men are unique. They are drawn to the brotherhood that this group provides. They want to open up to other men and share their struggles without fear of being judged.”
I was getting more and more interested. “Like what kind of struggles?”
Coy was getting animated now as he rattled off examples. “The struggle of being a husband, a father, or a son. The struggle of traveling so much that you become disconnected from your own family. The struggle of having to be the primary bread winner and the pressure that goes with that. The struggle of being in a bad marriage. The struggle of having to find a nursing home for your mother, who would rather die than be put into such a place.”
Then he smiled at me. “You know, the kind of issues that men don’t often share with each other.”
I nodded. “You had me at husband—father—son.”
He laughed. “Great. We’ll see you on Wednesday?”
I smiled. “I need to see what this man walk is all about. I’ll be there.”
Now I’ll be honest, as Wednesday approached, I found myself looking for reasons not to go. Plus, I’ve been in a “men’s group” before and wasn’t really interested in joining another one. But despite my resistance, I ended up going anyway and am glad I did. What an amazing experience it was, and with some amazing guys.
The evening began at Coy’s house. I strolled in at around 7:45 p.m. and we spent some time catching up before heading over to the park, by way of Dave’s house. Since most of the guys lived in the area, it wasn’t unusual to stop at each other’s houses along the way. Dave was one of the founding members of the group and probably the most instrumental in making it work. His garage, better known as the Swamp, was the man cave for many of the guys in the neighborhood. It was decorated in Grateful Dead memorabilia, complete with couches, a TV, and a refrigerator. It was too cool!
I asked Coy and Dave to talk a little about the concept of the man walk before heading out. Dave began by telling me how much this group of men have meant to him. “This is more than friendship,” he said, “This is brotherhood. We love each other.”
“And we’re truly there for each other,” added Coy. “It’s been a blessing to be a part of this band of brothers.”
It was 9:00 p.m. by the time we reached Washington Park. The temperature was about
50 degrees and there was a full moon shining overhead. Suddenly, as if on command, men approached us from all directions. Clearly these men all know each other, evident by the loud greetings, laughter, and hugging.
This must be the group, I whispered awkwardly; like I was looking in from the outside.
“Let’s circle up,” yells Dave. Within seconds the 12 men formed a circle for their ritual check-in. Then, one by one, each man shared a little about what was going on with him. Some shared very vulnerable things, while others kept it to how they were feeling in the moment. I was so touched by the level of openness and honesty they displayed. It made me want to open up to them as well. But the best part for me was how each man ended with the words, “I’m in.” To me that meant, “I’m here and I’m committed to being a part of this group.”
After check-in, we set off for our 2.5 mile walk around the park. Some men walked in small groups while others paired up (with the configuration always changing). The topics of conversations also varied. At one moment I was talking about my job while at another moment I shared the legacy I hope to leave on earth. There were no boundaries—anything was fair game.
Near the middle of the walk, Dave asked the whole group to circle up again. This time he asked Britt to step into the middle of the circle. Britt was about to leave town for three months and Dave wanted to give him a formal send-off. Then, one-by-one, each man gave a comment, or a blessing, or simply a hug to say goodbye to him. Again, I was blown away. Who are these guys?
At about 10:00 pm we completed our walk and we circled up one last time for the check-out. As with the check-in, each man got a chance to say something to the group. This time, everyone ended with the words, “I’m out.”
When the band of brothers dispersed, it was as they began—with loud goodbyes, laughter, and lots of hugging.
The walk itself took maybe an hour, but the memory for me will last a lifetime.
Men need men—not just for sports or a slap on the back—but for support, brutal honesty, and brotherhood. We need a safe place to be vulnerable without judgment, comparison, or competition. We need these man walks.
Thank you Coy and Dave for creating this band of brothers. I’m Greg Giesen and I’m Out!