I am a success today because someone believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let them down.
– Abraham Lincoln
If you ever achieved anything in life you know you couldn’t have achieved by yourself, chances are a mentor had something to do with it.
It may not have been a formal mentor through an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters; it may simply have been a coach who pointed you in the right direction, or a teacher who you knew was always in your corner.
Mentors are special people, and they are an incredible value to our society. So much so that President Obama recently proclaimed January as National Mentoring Month. A portion of the proclamation read as follows:
At the heart of America’s promise is the belief that we all do better when everyone has a fair shot at reaching for their dreams. Throughout our Nation’s history, Americans of every background have worked to uphold this ideal, joining together in common purpose to serve as mentors and lift up our country’s youth. During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.
Even if it’s just for an hour a week, mentors have the ability to empower and instill a sense of infinite possibility in the minds of young people. I’ve seen it often through my work with the Give Something Back Foundation. Mentors inspire our scholars, help them dream big, set realistic goals, provide feedback and authority, encourage accountability and celebrate their successes. Often these mentor-mentee relationships last a lifetime.
I also see the powerful impact mentoring has on the mentor as well.
Cory Booker, the New Jersey State Senator and former Mayor of Newark said, I’ve been a mentor since college and it hasn’t been an act of charity. It has enriched my life as much, if not more, than the young people I’ve been with.
It’s true, mentoring has the potential to transform not just one life — but two.
How do you know if you’d make a good mentor?
Let me ask you: Have you lived? Worked? Failed? Succeeded? Failed again? If you can tell your story, and listen to others, if you can offer hope — then you can mentor.
So during National Mentoring Month, please consider becoming a mentor and not only change the life of someone who could use a lift, but change your own life as well.
To learn more, visit givesomethingbackfoundation.org/mentors/
As a young child while growing up in the rural farming town of Porter, NY and without a positive and supportive father present, I often spent time with the old farmer who lived across the street from our small ranch home. My mother had heart disease and was not supposed to work but often spent long hours cleaning the homes or caring for sick members of wealthy families who lived along the Niagara River. Church was a big part of our lives. We all participated in Sunday school, choir, as acolytes or alter servers and at On Christmas we looked forward to receiving new socks, gloves and underwear, and toys were delivered by the Santa on the back of a Salvation Army truck. My father had lost his job with Bell in the early 70’s and have become very bitter and angry. He left the family and moved back to Brooklyn with his mother and to find work. all in all, this was a good thing as he was not a very supportive parent, given to fits of rage and abuse.
I called the old farmer “Grandpa Martin”, because his last name was Martin, and for some reason he always called me “Sam”. I have no idea why. I watched everything that he did, asked a hundred questions a day, which he answered patiently. I could often be seen working along side him or following close behind as he went about managing his crops and working around the house. Spending time with grandpa Martin was safe. I could ask honest questions, share my concerns and receive good advice without judgement. He carefully modeled good behaviors and practices and included me as he would any of his natural children or grandchildren in family activities. My first jobs as an 8-11 year old all evolved around farm-work. As I look back, the old farmer was my first mentor. He taught me respect for others, for the land and the animals around the farm. Through him I learned how to grow and that everything, with a level of care can blossom. I learned steady and consistent behaviors and good work ethic often persevered in challenging times. I also learned the importance of giving back, though some may tell you that I often do this to my own disadvantage. I had other mentors, Coach Johnston who coached me in football. As a small kid he continually supported and encouraged me to work hard and do my best. He found a place and provided opportunity for success to build confidence and encouraged us to be determined to reach our goals. I guess what I am saying is that the qualities found in each of these two individuals are good qualities to look for in a mentor: Ability to provide a safe environment for emotional risk taking, ability to be non judgmental, supportive and honest, able to demonstrate and model good behaviors, ability to be there when needed etc.
Robert, what a wonderful story about the impact of mentors in your life. I am so pleased that you shared them with us. If you don’t mind, please talk more about why some would say you have given back to your own disadvantage. Thank you so much. roc