Column by Philp Day
When you hear the word “mentor,” what do you think of?
Maybe a parent, teacher, sibling, boss, Sunday-school teacher, priest, rabbi, coach … yes, the list is long as to who may qualify to you as a “mentor.”
Now, what thoughts cross your mind when you think of that mentor? Warm thoughts, perhaps? Thoughts about them that you may have for any other person in your life.
You may recall how they took time out for you during their busy day. They saw something in you. They saw some potential in you that no one else may have seen.
Your mentor believed in you. They sat down with you and taught you something. They may have chastised you about your behavior because they cared about you and wanted you to change that behavior before it caused further trouble in your life.
Your mentor laughed and cried with you. They were at your big event in your young life – your big game, your high-school graduation, your first day at the new job, your Confirmation, your wedding, your illness, your Bah mitzvah – any events that shaped your character today.
Your mentor listened, too. They did not judge you harshly and give up on you when that inevitable screw-up occurred.
Instead, they actually heard about your struggles, your heartaches and your failures.
Your mentor was there for you, when you needed them the most.
Now, I want you to erase that mentor from your life right now. Imagine that they never existed. Imagine that all of those conversations at the picnic table in the park, all of those basketball games they attended, imagine all of those hours after school where they helped you with your homework, imagine all those hours after work where they gave you good advice on how to succeed never happened. That’s right, they never happened.
It would be a different world for you today, wouldn’t it?
Would you be as successful today without your mentor? Would you have graduated from high school or college? Would you still be here?
Those are deep questions, and it’s all speculation, I know. Who knows, right?
I have a pretty good idea. If it weren’t for my mentor, Dr. Walter F. Cramer, my Bible and Spanish teacher in high school, I would not be where I am today.
At a very early time in my life, he was there to set me straight, listen to me and encourage me to succeed. His example was one of a thoughtful, principled, supportive listener. He died more than five years ago, but his influence lives on in me today.
Without my mentor, it’s hard telling where I would be, but I doubt it would be a good place. His inspiration still keeps me going today. I quote him all of the time, without even thinking about it.
Mentors make a priceless contribution to our lives. They helped us form our character and inspire us to succeed, no matter what our circumstances.
Yet, today there are many young people in the Shenandoah Valley who have no mentor. They have no adult who cares about them or decides to spend some of their valuable time with them.
Youth in the Valley have so many issues that are a microcosm of the nation: pregnancy, dropouts, gangs, drugs, alcohol, runaways … well, the list is all too familiar. We can’t escape it even in this beautiful, family-friendly area surrounded by trees, mountains and history.
So, where am I going with all this anyway?
Well, I say quit cursing the darkness and do something about it! Be a mentor to that young person in your neighborhood, school, business, church, synagogue, college or even your own home.
You were fortunate to have a mentor. Now, pass that fortune down.
No one can do it better than you.
Philip Day, a new monthly columnist for The Augusta Free Press, is the mentoring coordinator of MentorMatch Harrisonburg, a volunteer mentoring program provided by Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, bringing adults together with foster care and court-involved youth in the Shenandoah Valley. MentorMatch Harrisonburg may be reached at 540.437.1211, and e-mailed at [email protected]. Their website is www.mentormatch.info.