By Brady Liles
It all started a little over two years ago. I had no idea that this would be one of the most influential facets in my life. It was called Book Club. The Tuesday night trend started years before my invitation, consisted of a solid group of about seven men from various backgrounds, occupations, and phases of life.
My first time to attend Book Club, I remember feeling like an outsider. The group chose to meet at and unfamiliar location, a small bar and grill in Florence. Being the youngest at the table, I was in the midst of men varying from their early thirties to late sixties and was rather intimidated. These men, however, saw fit to take this young man into their group and open their lives to him…to me.
Conversations consisted greatly on the shared hobby that was the foundation for the group’s formation: premium cigars. In Book Club, there was no such talk about books exactly, except the Bible. The Book Club that welcomed my membership was based on the tobacco industry rather than the paper industry and I loved it. The conversations ranged from childhood memories and war stories to critical discussions about current events and theology and the expansive art of cigars. I left every week feeling more culturally educated by the conversations that took place both as a group and with the man next to me.
These men had insight to the problems I had been experiencing myself. They asked humbling questions as well as answered the ones that tumbled in my mind. Before this, there had never been a group in my life which, as a whole, was so involved and intentional. People sometimes say, “The friends you have in high school will always be your friends, but those made in college will be the friends that stick with you the rest of your life”. This may be true for some, but I have found that to be true of the group I found at the local cigar shop.
Being in the group has taught me so much about life thus far. In two years, I have grown into the group of men as part of the core. Over the years, some have left the group for various reasons and some have joined in the fellowship, resulting in inevitable growth in quantity and quality.
Over the years, I have watched new people come into the group and begin to change and grow themselves, just as I did.
I feel like this group is almost counter-cultural in this decade. The conversations and topics revolve around issues that concern all of us, while overcoming the obvious separation between the ages and even socioeconomic classes of the men. Within the group, walls are broken down between those differences. The social norm may be to divide because of differing opinions and cultures, but we are able to converse intelligently and maturely as we sharpen each other.
I believe today’s culture needs more involvement in groups like this. There is a great need for a bridge between the generations. There is a great need for generations of old to reach out to teach youths and for those of new to take hold of the wisdom available behind wrinkles and silver hair.