Look back on your life. How have mentors have impacted who you are today?
January is National Mentoring Month, and I’d love to tell you about my sister, my mentor – partly to brag on her, but also to paint a picture of how a mentor can enrich your life. Below, you’ll find a true story that will encourage you and inspire.
“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.” — Ralph Waldo EmersonTweet
As you read the following true story, think about who has impacted your life most in a mentoring capacity and whether or not it may be time for you to pay it forward.
Here’s my story…
My Sister, My Mentor
Eight Years Old and In the Big City
I stood on the sidewalk five feet from the crumbling curb. I was eight years old. Looking down at my hand, I made sure the new Winnipeg Transit pass was still there. Yes, it was safe. I craned my neck, forward and to the side, for a better view of the city bus that was pulling up. Its brakes squealed as it hissed to a stop in front of us. A hot gust of wind blew a whiff of exhaust into my nostrils. I scrunched my nose.
My sister, older than I by twelve years, stood to my side. She heaved her diaper bag off the dusty concrete, then shifted her ten-month-old daughter higher up onto her hip. I mirrored her steps when she entered the line to board the bus.
All Aboard the City Bus
To my left, I saw people file out of a door about halfway down the side of the bus. Some were in business suits. Others were more casually dressed, such as the man who bobbed to the beat of his walk-man while exiting. One young woman awkwardly lowered a stroller down the bus steps to the sidewalk below.
Oof! My niece’s little foot hoofed the side of my head in mid-swing, calling my attention forward again.
The line was moving. I glanced up at the number on the bus and wondered how my sister knew which bus to take. At the top of the bus steps, I faced the driver and proudly flashed my riding pass. The three of us took our seats. My sister and I sat side by side with her baby on her lap. I got the window seat. As the bus lurched into gear, I pressed my forehead against the smudged glass to see if I could glimpse the bus tires spinning.
Far From Poops-Ville
The city view from my window was a far cry from the daily country scenery I was used to. My family and I lived on a small acreage nearly thirty miles away. In the country, the pungent smell of neighboring lagoons and freshly cut grass were my constant companions; and rather than the noise of car horns and chattering people, my days were filled with the sounds of chirping crickets, neighboring cows, buzzing mosquitos, and the occasional truck rumbling down our gravel road. Now, I was in the rumbling vehicle, but I was cruising down cracked and potholed streets, and I couldn’t wait to reach our destination: the Pan Am Pool.
Visiting my sister in the city was always an adventure. This was the second summer in a row that I would be staying with her for two whole weeks while I attended swimming lessons at an Olympic-size pool. In addition to hauling me to lessons, she would bring me to the park, to the Museum of Man and Nature, and to the shopping mall that was close to her house. In the evenings after my niece fell asleep, we would watch TV and play with each other’s hair.
Ding! went the cord dangling near my head. A round woman sitting in front of us needed to get off at the next stop. I turned my head and faced my sister with eager expectation.
“Can I pull the cord when it’s our turn?”
She said she’d tell me when. I admired her know-how.
My Sister, My Mentor
That bus ride and the visit to my sister happened a long time ago, but the impression made on my young heart remains. My sister’s influence on my life remains. Her strength of character remains.
My sister is courageous and determined. I watched her earn a teaching degree while she raised a child. After graduating and embarking on her new teaching career, she had three more beautiful babies. I saw her raise all four children to adulthood while also pouring love and energy into each student that entered her classroom. Today, she continues to further her education and move forward in her career.
My sister is loving and wise. She taught me that, despite my mistakes and failures, I am a beautiful angel. She taught me that I don’t have to apologize for being me and to be generous with my affection. She taught me to see my children for who they truly are and to give them the freedom to be themselves. She taught me to view life through their eyes and to nurture their gifts and talents.
Still Under the Influence
My sister’s lessons and words are often with me:
When I’m drowning in a sea of doubt, and my faith is at the end of its rope, her voice spurs me on: “Sara, you have to believe what you believe!”
When I feel I am failing as a parent, her words encourage me: “It’s 98% love, 2% discipline.”
More recently, when I was nearing the finish line of the final draft of my first novel, I wondered if I was kidding myself. Could I really be an author? Would anyone even want to publish my book?
But my sister, my mentor, stood before me with bright eyes and said confidently, “They’ll want it, Sara. Someone will want the book. It’s a good story.” Her confidence gave me the motivation to go home and keep working.
And it should be no surprise that when I finally finished the book, it was my sister who helped me edit and polish my manuscript, sitting by my side – just as we had sat together on the bus those many years ago.
If You’re Feeling Inspired (and I Hope You Are), Here a Few Questions You Should Answer Today:
Q1: Could you be a mentor?
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John CrosbyTweet
“But I’m just me. I’m not mentor material.”
What picture comes to mind when you think of a mentor? As you can see from my experience, a mentor doesn’t have to be a prominent businessperson or a gray-haired elder.
Think about it:
- Who could use your encouragement today?
- Who would be open to hearing about your experiential knowledge?
Simply taking one step forward by initiating contact with that person could make a huge difference in their life.
“I’ve learned a lot from mentors who were instrumental in shaping me, and I want to share what I’ve learned.”Herbie Hancock
“I’m interested, but I’m a hot mess right now.”
Please understand that I am the last person to push you to do something you’re not ready for. God knows that I need time – time to heal, time to wrap my brain around his plans for me, time to grow and learn, etc. He often plants the seed of an idea in my heart long, long, long before he expects me to act on it, and he will be just as patient with you.
So, if you like the idea of mentoring someone, ask God what he thinks about it. Ask him to set things in motion if this is the right time for you to be a mentor.
Q2: Would You Like a Mentor in Your Life?
If you’re the one who would like a mentor in your life, again, ask God to intervene on your behalf. He loves you. He knows what you need, and he wants to help.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob ProctorTweet
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m desperate for a mentor right now because I know how a mentor can enrich your life.
As a new-ish writer, I wish a mature author would take me aside, tell me whether my book is good or crap, offer me advice on the direction of my blog, help me revise my book proposal and agent-search strategy, etc. I feel lost in this area of my life, but finding a mentor is incredibly difficult. This is why I’m saying to you: ask God to intervene on your behalf. I sure need him to.
Q3: Could You Thank a Mentor?
January 31st is Thank Your Mentor Day (#ThankYourMentor).
If you’re feeling up to it, give someone a call or send a quick message to thank them for their influence in your life.
Looking for More?
- Read how the simple things like being a parent and nurturing your children is a mentoring action in my article: Pepsi, Mountain Trails, and the Father’s Heart.
- Check out this encouraging article from http://www.gracepointwellness.org about being a mentor to your child can enrich their lives: https://www.gracepointwellness.org/82-parenting/article/4732-mentoring
- Find out more about organized mentoring programs at http://www.mentoring.org. (https://www.mentoring.org/our-work/campaigns/national-mentoring-month/)