Mentees are in different places and different spaces when they are matched with their mentors. There is no best way to mentor, though the following quotes from mentees will give mentors some ideas as they embark on the mentoring journey:
People point to a variety of systems and services that helped me escape the cycle of poverty, drugs and crime that many of my … peers never left. And many elements did contribute to my successful exit. But nothing I can think of was more important to me than the consistent presence of a positive role model, someone who exposed me to a vision, who helped me see beyond my daily grind of poverty and glimpse a life that existed on the other side. Jim Berry and I spent countless hours together doing things that sound particularly unexceptional, but that at the time meant the world to me: sharing a laugh over a cheeseburger, fries and a soda; playing Ping-Pong in his basement; playing tennis; learning to play golf …; having dinner at his house with his wife; and so on … He inspired me to do the right thing, not because of anything he ever directly said, but because he gave me a reason to work hard, to make someone proud. My confidence, my desire, and my abilities came alive as a result of his small contribution of time once a week.
Phil was much more enjoyable than I had anticipated, and we started doing things together. As it turned out, we shared many interests. We took day-trips to the aquarium and amusement parks. Phil got on all the fun rides with me. We enjoyed the same types of movies … and … we both loved auto shows. We enjoyed simpler activities too, like playing chess, building model cars, and putting puzzles together. Not all the models were completed, nor were all the puzzles put together in their entirety, but we still enjoyed spending time together. The relationship continued to build over the years… To me, Phil was a perfect blend of a role model and a best friend.
One of Cliff’s gentle reassurances when we met was “I am not going to replace your dad.” But that’s what he has done; everything a father would do. For nine years, he came to all my baseball games. In bad situations, he is a problem solver and a peacemaker. There are heated debates and bear hugs. Some real fathers never share those moments with their sons. He knows everything about me. No subject is off limits, not even sex.
Jim was the father figure and male role model I unconsciously needed at the time. He was always there for me, through the good times and the bad. He was never too busy to talk to me when I had a problem. He offered me advice on everything from academics and athletics to girls. Jim had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. He believed in me so much growing up that I started to believe in myself.
Bud is not a typical man. He is a genuine, caring, loving man who took a boy who couldn’t see beyond his immediate community and offered more than hope. Bud taught me through example that the world is a wonderful place and that our only limitations are self-prescribed. Bud was literally my steady ripple of motivation in the still pond of self-doubt.
Randy did so much for me. She subtly pointed out the dysfunction in my family and its destructive behaviour. She taught me to be an independent thinker. She asked me what I thought , and why, and affirmed my right to have my own feelings. Randy took me to museums, plays, and the ballet. She encouraged me to read, and she took me to the library often, sometimes more often than I appreciated at the time. [She] showed me how to open a bank account and encouraged me to save. Randy introduced me to the YMCA swimming and community boating programs. She stressed the importance of higher education and the idea of making sacrifices for the sake of long-term goals.
Mary Dooner Griffin
My relationship with Ben was never about what he said; it was about what Ben did. I looked at what he did and how he behaved, and I wanted to be like that too. I looked at his family and corrected my actions according to the way his family conducted themselves. I look at Ben like a brother. I love him. He’s always there for me; he’s always shown me love. It’s as simple as that.
Children today need mentors and role models. Too many kids are from broken homes and single-parent families. Too many kids are at risk. One parent can’t give a child everything. My mother was great; she kept me out of trouble. But she knew I needed a strong male role model. I needed someone I could look up to, someone I could talk to, someone who had life experiences to share. That’s what Steve West did for me. He became the friend, mentor and role model I needed. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart. He proved that one person can make a difference.
Over the years, I’ve stumbled and made some mistakes, which I strongly feel were just downright stupid. While Mama and I were close and I had other folks I could talk to, Trudy has always been the one person I know I can call and tell any news without being judged or given unwanted advice. She just listens and follows my lead as to how much discussion needs to ensue. She is the keeper of my life secrets and is always full of encouragement for me. She is my sister of the heart, and I love her tremendously.
Even more important than the activities was the emotional connection. They always ended their outings with ice cream or dessert at a restaurant. “That’s where we would have our conversations,” Dennis recalls. “H
enry was such a good listener. I was very withdrawn, angry at the world, and felt that I was the victim of divorce. But here was someone who voluntarily listened to me vent about what I didn’t like. I hated school, but Henry never lectured. He offered me advice and encouragement without being an authority figure. He was more of a friend, which is what I really needed then. Henry was instrumental in showing me I had a future… He had his own successful engineering business and I looked up to him.
Throughout everything, Debi’s guidance and support remained one of the only constants in my life. I credit my open mind, love for life, and desire to never stop learning to her. She was my Magellan; she taught me how to navigate the narrow straits of my life as she showed me the rest of the world. Part compass and part rudder, she allowed me to discover myself and find a lifelong best friend and sister.
It was in restaurants and dressing rooms that we gabbed and giggled about the challenges of puberty, including sex, drugs, violence and first loves. In addition to this regular dose of quality time, Debi sought to expose me to a variety of new experiences and adventures… I sometimes resisted the less-than-cool activities, but Debi gently encouraged me to continually try new things. In time, I began to open my mind and stretch my comfort zone. Only as an adult can I truly appreciate the value of these experiences.
Early on, I was extremely nervous that Tracy wouldn’t like me. It was hard for me to open up to anyone, but Tracy was patient and kind. From the start, I could tell she always made a special effort to connect and to learn to do the things I wanted to do. Instantly, she made me feel special… When I was a teenager in St. Helena, I became moody and difficult to get along with. I was, frankly, at a point when I really needed Tracy most. She gave me space and stuck with me even when I was tough to handle. Throughout it all, in typical Tracy style, she was never judgmental or preachy. Her unconditional, positive regard was extremely helpful for me those days.
Having Terry in my life has made me a better person, a more confident person. He wouldn’t let me get away with doing things halfway. He has always supported me in everything I’ve done, and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without him in it. Terry’s my brother and will be for the rest of our lives.
Thank you Brian for seeing me through my growing years, for sending me off into adulthood ready for challenges, and for preparing me to give of myself to improve the lives of others. I am eternally grateful.
All quotes are from: Little moments Big Magic – Inspirational stories of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Magic They Create; Beth Barrett, Alan Annis, Denice Riffey (2004)
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