“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view.”
If I didn’t already consider myself an Oprah disciple, this quote of hers sealed the deal. Yes O, you get it.
Eleven years ago, I felt an unfamiliar yearning for more depth and meaning in my life. My two daughters had embarked on grown-up lives of their own, and I felt restless for a sense of purpose. I longed for that elusive feeling when you know that what you have said or done has made an impact. It pestered me, it gnawed at me, and it motivated me.
I went to a volunteer orientation at Big Brothers Big Sisters and felt something crystallize within me. My inner voice was getting louder, and I knew then and there that I was meant to be a mentor.
I was matched with Jess- an adorable, smart, and playful young girl. We clicked immediately. I couldn’t wait to get started and show her all the things we could experience together—the zoo, the movie theater, go-karts, a ball game—the possibilities were seemingly endless!
What I didn’t know then is that Jess would come to show me so much more. While I was running us from one activity to the next, Jess was quietly teaching me the importance of being present. When I was quick to respond with an anecdote to a story she shared, she was showing me by example how to pause before responding. I found myself listening with more intention.
The shift was a subtle one, but Jess, having already mastered the art of being still, was patiently guiding me. I was a slow learner, but I was getting there. The way that Jess responds to her life struggles has challenged me to reframe mine as well. Her gentle gift was giving me the chance to bear witness to not only her self-discovery but also my own.
The beauty in our relationship is that though I am deeply connected, I am not as entrenched in it as a parent. I am a caring adult friend, so my reactions are more measured and less emotionally charged. Jess has learned that she can tell me anything and I won’t blink.
Believe me, my own teenage daughters at the time were not so lucky. Despite my missteps and overreactions, they are now amazing young women who have gone on to mentor in their own ways, and that makes my heart absolutely swell.
Many years into this unique friendship, we have each weathered a lot of changes in our lives. There is however, something I know for sure. My relationship with Jess will have no expiration date. She has become an integral part of my life.
I have also learned that some experiences give way to opportunities that can feel predestined. Big Brothers Big Sisters asked me to join them in sharing their vision of helping other children like Jess to ignite their potential.
It was a pivotal moment, not only for my career but for my spirit as well. It was a mission I felt deeply in my bones. I quietly gave thanks to the circumstances that brought Jess and me together so long ago.
Statistics show that mentoring works, creating a profound impact on both the children and the communities in which they live.
I am here to tell you that those of us who enter into it hoping to make a difference in the life of a child, come away transformed ourselves. The unexpected reveal is how that is measured in our hearts.