I have had mentors before, but there is one which stands out in particular.
I met my first mentor, whom I will call Cynthia, at church one evening. She was about fifteen years older than me, but still very young and hip, and had a passion for life, God, family, friends, dance, writing, and many other things. I think that she sensed that, although I was a nice person, my life at that point resembled a wet lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, waiting to be guided and molded into a productive member of society. She came, therefore, alongside of me on my journey as both a friend and guide to help me find myself and my way in life.
Cynthia opened me up to a host of new experiences. I had not had a job for a while at the time; I was in a serious rut. She helped me to get a substitute teaching job at the school where she worked, invited me to events with her and her friends (who were all caring and accepted me into their group), opened her home to me as a family friend, invited me to be a student in her modeling class (which opened me to another experience and helped me gain a little confidence), encouraged me to start working on my health and work out in the gym where her husband worked, tried to set me up with one of her friends (“tried” is the operative term), and met with me at a local café often to have Bible study together, talk for hours, exchange ideas, and help me set up goals for my life. I did not see it at the time, but Cynthia had really done a lot to help me become a more well-rounded person and opened up several doors of positive experiences in my life that helped me to become a better person to this day.
To this day, I believe in the power of effective, caring mentorship. I believe all the more in it because I had another mentor at another time in my life who appeared to be caring at first, yet mostly seemed to keep me around when I was useful to her and could bolster her ego in some way. When I made enough of a big mistake, however, I wasn’t useful to her anymore. She treated me harshly, rejected me, and turned our friends against me.
I have met many more people after that and have had some more life experiences. I’ve made a lot of friends, the good and the not-so-great. I’ve learned a lot about who I can trust and who I cannot and this has, in turn, has helped me to become more discerning about those whom I allow to speak into my life. I liken those who mentor effectively as shepherds; they are there to gently guide, not to beat us with their staffs. Every person, however, whether he or she is a healthy or toxic influence, has the potential to teach us something about ourselves and our lives, and how we will choose to treat others (and choose not to treat others). Sometimes we cannot recognize the good people in our lives unless we have been exposed to predators.
I cannot recall a time when I have been a mentor to anyone, per se. I’ve been helped by Cynthia and a few other wonderful people in my life and, in the odd chance that friends come to me for advice, I do try to help them in the ways that I have received help. I do find a certain meaning and purpose when I am able to tell someone that I have been in their shoes in a particular circumstance and know that I can help them in that way. Through the things that I have been through, I hope I have learned to be a more patient, compassionate person and could be considered trustworthy enough, healthy enough, and mature enough for me to help somebody in that capacity.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mshiffphotography/8762049742/”>Matt Shiffler Photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>