How well do you value the experiences of others?
I recall, as an adolescent, sitting with a variety of significant adults in my life and listening to them sharing their words of wisdom, though it was listening to their true stories of the highs and lows of their lives that had the most impact on me.
Recently I read a wonderful book by Neal C Lemery J.D., Mentoring Boys to Men – Climbing Their Own Mountains, which I would highly recommend to anyone working with young boys especially. Neal captures stories of young people he has worked with and, through his experiential life journey, we gain further insights into the meaning of the Spirit of Mentoring.
He shared a well-known Cherokee Legend.“An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every person, too.”
The grandson thought about his words for a minute, then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
How important it is for the mentor to role model all those qualities of the good wolf in his or her relationship with their mentee and that’s why it is equally important for mentors to live a balanced lifestyle. If they are unable to do this, it’s quite likely that the impact they will make in a mentoring relationship will be considerably reduced.
I remember some of my sport mentors sharing the sacrifices they made to achieve their ultimate sporting goals. They taught me about perseverance, that if I want something I need to work hard at it, I’ll probably fail along the way and that’s okay. At such times I was likely to learn so much about myself and my ambitions as long as I kept an open mind and kept my eyes fixed on my goal or goals.
And when I was studying to become a History teacher, I was like a sponge with my school History teacher. His teaching methods, as I later discovered, were so far ahead of his time and I continued that legacy with great results, not just with regard to academic results, but with the quality of the relationships I established with so many of the students I taught.
I remember in my penultimate year of school, when the new Student Leaders for the following year were announced, being absolutely gutted when my name was not read out. I had worked so hard in all areas of my school life and felt that I had done enough to be appointed. I felt physically ill for about three minutes!
I had a choice to make at that moment. I had missed out on an opportunity. Did I throw in the towel and accept that I would not make the leadership team or did I work harder in the hope that, later in the year, another opportunity might come my way?
In the end it was not a hard decision, as I enjoyed being part of a team in a leadership capacity and, when I was appointed Captain of Cricket, I had the opportunity to show what I was made of. At the end of the season I was appointed a member of the Student Leadership team and had achieved another of my goals.
Many of the characteristics required of Student Leaders in those days were those of the good wolf.
With the impact that technology and social media is having on young people, many seem to struggle to think beyond themselves and to reach out to others, to show compassion, empathy, humility and kindness, with a lack of faith becoming even more noticeable as well.
When I work with young people, no matter what their situation might be, at some point I’ll steer the conversation towards setting a goal that will result in that young person reaching out to others. It might be doing some chores around the house to raise some money to contribute to a project linked to ending global poverty; it might be helping out in some way at a school or Club function, but there will be a focus on doing something for others. The young person will make the choice and then I’ll be the Cheerleader!
As I sponsored children and others in different countries for many years, I am able to share these experiences with young people and so I am a role model to them.
More and more of the Neuroscience research is supporting the idea that the more we help others, the healthier and happier we ourselves become and that’s why it’s important to keep on keeping on having these conversations with the young people we mentor.
Neal Lemery writes: “The little I do – some words of encouragement, a trip to the campus, a visit to a bookstore, a steady hand on his shoulder when the path gets a little rocky – is the best investment I can make in the future. And not just his future. His future successes, smart ideas, and focused leadership are also going to improve my life and make my village a better place to live.
“I’ve received, and I’ve given back. I’ve come full circle in the helping-one’s-neighbor view of the world. I’ve seen the planting and the harvest season after season. That kind of farm work – the raising up of others to achieve their dreams and reach for the stars – is what we are here for.
“In the end of all that care and compassion for our fellow human-kind, we might even end up with a better world for everyone.”
Share the story of the Cherokee Legend with mentees. It could open up all types of discussions, always aimed at encouraging the mentee to become the best he or she can become.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or on Instagram or contact him through his YES! website