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