What do you love most in life?
This is the question South African paediatrician, Dr Alastair McAlpine, asked the terminally ill children he was caring for.
Living in the 21st Century Digital Age, their answers might surprise you.None of the children wished that they had spent more time online or watching TV.
“Often kids even in very short lives can teach us so much,” Dr McAlpine shared.
He looked around at local and global issues and was struck by so much depressing news. “It made me think of these amazing children I deal with who are facing real problems. If they could be positive and upbeat, I felt others should be.”
8 of the positive life lessons these children teach us include:
- be kind;
- read more books;
- spend time with family;
- crack jokes;
- go to the beach;
- hug your dog;
- tell that special person you love them; and
- eat ice cream.
As I read this article one word came to mind: RELATIONSHIPS.
Relationships with family, people and animals – face to face relationships.
That reminded me how important and powerful significant adults are in the lives of young people and most especially in the lives of teenagers as they face all the challenges and confusions life throws at them at a time when their bodies and brains are developing in extraordinary ways.
After a six to nine month mentoring relationship with a trained volunteer adult mentor as part of the GR8 Mates school-based youth mentoring program, the importance of a new relationship was echoed in the following thanks from Tony (not his real name) to his mentor at the final gathering to celebrate the end of the program. Tony and his mentor continued to meet for the next nine years and, perhaps, are still in touch.
“Thank you for all the help and support you have given me over the months we have been together.
You have made me realise that nothing is impossible and I can do anything I aspire to be.
You’ve made me stronger both physically and mentally. Before I met you my anger got the best of me. Now, through your support and encouragement it is no longer an issue for me.
Now I believe I’m making something of my life and want to better my future. You have shown me the importance of a good career and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
I could never thank you enough. You are truly the most caring person I’ve ever met and I wish to thank you for your commitment to me. You’ve made me a better person and for that I will never forget you.
And at the same function, 15-year old Kath (not her real name) thanked her mentor:
“I write this letter to thank you … because without you I doubt I would have gotten through the year. You’ve been a mentor and a friend, which is more than I could of expected and I also thank you for your patience and guidance and I’m glad to have a mentor who cares as much as you.
Whether I fail school or not, I always want to give you my deepest gratitude for all your help. It was your time to do with what you wish. Instead you came to my school every week and offered me advice and friendship!”
Many years later Kath’s mentor was going through some personal issues and Kath sent her a message just to let her know that, just as she had supported Kath all those years ago in the GR8 Mates mentoring program, so Kath would be there for her mentor during a challenging time.
If your child or mentee asked you: “What do you love most in life?”, how would you respond, hopefully now inspired by the thoughts of some terminally ill children who shared such wise perspectives on what is really important in life?
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 (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.