I'm so excited! I have two students to mentor this year at Shepherd King's adopted school - Eisenhower Middle School. Next week I will meet with one of them, and the following week I'll meet the other.
When the school year began, the student I mentored from last year - N - was no longer enrolled at Eisenhower. I was disappointed because I'd become fond of him, but I knew he had planned to go live with his mother. The Counselor at Eisenhower found another student for me to see - Z - and just as that was set up, N returned to Eisenhower. I told her I would gladly see both of them, one on Monday mornings and the other on Tuesdays.
Before I go any further I have to confess - I have no special skills or wisdom to offer these two boys. What I have is time. I meet them at the school and we go to the library to talk for an hour. We talk about whatever is on their minds, or I might ask them a few questions about school or their particular interests. But the most important thing I offer them is an hour a week. For that one hour (40 minutes, really) I'm all theirs. I listen to them, encourage them, celebrate and lament with them, and occasionally offer words of guidance. My aim is to let them know that I care and, by meeting with them each week, to allow them to count on me.
Mentoring is not hard to do. You don't have to understand and help your student with homework; you don't have to have answers to their problems. Mostly you just have to commit some time to them and show you care. The benefits you - the mentor - receive are rich. You get to know a young person, grow to appreciate his/her abilities, see how he/she copes with challenges, and come to care about someone who is tied to you in no way other than by mentoring. It is a wonderful experience.
We've all been mentored by someone - an adult who took time for us when we were young, a colleague who helped us learn the ropes, Sunday school teachers, grandparents, friends who modeled faith for us and had confidence in us. In a few weeks the Church will celebrate its official "mentors" on All Saints Sunday. Saints are not people who are holier or more spiritual than others; they are ordinary individuals who have trusted God and followed Jesus in their own lives. They are mentors to all of us, their lives showing how we, too, can live.
One of my personal mentors or 'saints' currently is Leymah Gbowee, a Lutheran from Liberia who just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Ms. Gbowee helped organize the women of Liberia to protest the long standing civil war that had killed thousands of people and ravaged their homeland. Hundreds of women - Lutheran, Catholic, and Muslim - wore white and gathered in the center of town to call for an end to the war. Mostly they were silent, letting their presence speak for them. When official peace talks reached a stalemate, the women used their bodies to prevent the committee from leaving until an agreement had been reached. Former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, is now in exile and a new, democratic leader has been elected. Ms. Gbowee is an inspiration to me and a model of how faith can lead people to work, peacefully and successfully, for change.
Who do you mentor? Consider volunteering at your local school as a mentor - you, too, can change a life for the better.