My friend has the greatest memory. “Allison do you remember Jean?” She asked me. I, searching my memory, answered honestly “No, who is she”. Then came the exasperated sigh. “Of course you must remember her, remember we did….” And so it would continue with the hoped for result of me saying “Oh now I remember and yes we did do so and so and went this place together, yada yada yada.” But it never ends that way. It usually ended with “No matter how many memories you drag out you know I don’t have your memory, but I believe you when you say I know her, now what about her.” My friend and I have been friends since I was 8 and she 7 years old so she is a sort of historian for me because my long term memory sucks.
I wonder sometimes why she has such clear memories of our childhood, while mine are so vague. We did life together as children and shared many experiences because our two families were close.
As I wandered through the Museum with my mentees on a field trip to view photographer Kristy Mitchell’s Wonderland exhibit I was overtaken with the beauty of the experience. Indeed it was an exhibit designed to draw you in emotionally. My girls (mentees) wandered the wide rooms and were absorbing the images, interacting with the art and the artist through her work. I looked around to check in on each of them to make sure they were getting the most out of the experience when I spotted one of the girls sitting and focused on her phone.
I quietly came and sat next to her. By the time she registered my presence she knew she had been caught. I asked “Is what you are doing on your phone something that you can do later?” “Yes” she softly replied. “Is there something going on right now here, with these people, that cannot be done later?” “Yes” she again replied. “Don’t lose this moment or this experience. It will never return and in the place of a memory you will have regret.” I told her this and quietly left her to make a decision. I later observed her wandering around the museum along with her peers and sharing thoughts on the photos.
I believe that I missed many moments in my youth, but not due to a phone. I was a voracious reader. I carried a book with me where ever I went, hoping for an uninterrupted moment where I could pull it out and jump from my reality back to whatever world, time, or place that waited between the pages. My friends lived in those pages. I knew all the Little Women, and later the Little Men, I read many different genres and felt bereft when I had exhausted the offerings of a particular author.
Although reading is great and I don’t regret reading, I do regret not being present for much of my childhood experiences. Many of which were great, according to my friend, my historian. I didn’t want my mentee to have a similar regret. Even today I still have to remind myself to be present in each season of my life and not to waste it in experiences that can be had at any time. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I want to experience the purpose for which God has given me this time. Only in doing that do I know I will have no regret. Purpose in your heart today, to be present. This time has been given to you for a reason; do you know what it is?
The power of words is immeasurable. Words last long past the vibrations in the air that produce the sound. I reflected on that recently when I heard an old joke. The joke went like this: A woman was in the habit of passing a pet store daily on her way to work. A parrot, stood guard in the open doorway and upon seeing her would loudly shout insults at her. Daily she endured as the parrot called her “fat” and “ugly” in his loud squawk. Finally she had enough and decided to address the problem to the store owner. The store owner apologized for his rude parrot and told her he would take care of it. The following day as she passed the store, she again experienced the parrot shouting insults at her. In frustration she again reported it to the owner, but this time with a threat. Again he was apologetic and promised she would no longer be bothered by the parrot. A few days later she passed the store and noticed the parrot was once again in the open doorway. As she passed she looked glaringly at him and he looked glaringly at her. She was almost out of earshot when she clearly heard him say “YOU KNOW!”
As a mentor we meet many children who have been exposed to words that can easily be recalled with a simple “you know”. They “know” negative things about themselves that have been told to them by others. We have the ability through our word to change the meaning of “you know”in their lives. One of the greatest tools we use as mentors it’s the tool of encouragement. We encourage with our words, with our smiles, with our nods of acknowledgment of jobs well done. A child who believes something good about themselves is not easily discouraged, because they “know”.
As we start this new mentoring year we take Jesus’ words to heart. Mark 9:42 And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck”
As we start this new year of mentoring, the question of why we do it is at the forefront of my mind. The answers vary from individual to individual, but mentors who enjoy this calling will agree with the following.
We mentor because we know life can be hard for children and adults alike. The reality of conflict within and without is always in front of us. Many children live in one parent homes; have been eye witnesses’ to conflict in the home that has resulted in physical damage or emotional damage. Many children seek to recreate the perfect family by getting pregnant in their teen. Some run away and others stay, but drop out of high school and get stuck in menial jobs believing that the pattern of their lives is now set.
We mentor to provide a door of hope, the scent of opportunity, to overwhelm the stench of defeat. Some parents who have suffered may desire to provide these same things to their children, but are sometimes blocked by the limits of their own ability to envision something better, or the tools to achieve the greater vision in their lives or the lives of their children. We help those parents by providing what they struggle to provide. We provide time with their children, where we can fan to flame positive hopes and aspirations, and present realistic tools to make that child’s (and sometimes parent’s dream for their child) a reality.
Why do we mentor? We do it for the children, we do it for the parents, we do it because God has loved us and equipped us! Why wouldn’t we, when God has blessed us with a vision, a purpose and an opportunity!!!
Hosea 2:14-16 (NIV)
14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. 15 There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 16 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.
When hope comes in, relationships change. Positive change is seen in our relationship to ourselves; our relationship to others; and our relationship to our community. We mentor so that our mentees can experience this positive change in their lives and the systems that impact that life.
Allison Bonilla LCSW