Some thoughts on being a mentor

"I don't know why, but I got from your application that you were a strong, confident man, so I set you up with Seth. His mother and I decided that he really needed a strong male influence in his life."
I'm in the counsellor's office, reading the dos and don'ts of mentoring at the school, getting my mentor I.D. badge and setting up a cafeteria lunch account. I'm a few minutes away from meeting Seth, who is described as a quiet, shy blond-haired boy.
"We don't expect much today, just have lunch, tell him what you do, and we'll see if he'll talk back. Don't be surprised if he sits quietly. He is rather shy."
Seth and I shake hands.
"Seth, why don't you give Thom a tour of the school, then go through the lunch line."
We walk out the door, and for the next 15 minutes, I can barely get a word in edgewise. Just questions, which Seth answers in great detail. It's like he was corked, and just needed the right opener. He's articulate and he's funny.
He shows me his little brother's room, pulls him out of first grade. We talk and the boy starts to follow us.
"Hey, bud, what are you doing on first grade?"
"Makin' stuff."
"Well, you need to get going making stuff."
He turns to go back, the teacher hides a smile with her fingers and Seth grabs the arm of my jacket and says, "Let's go get your lunch now. I bring mine, but sometimes I don't. They have three kinds of milk."
And he's disappointed, I think, when I pick white.
"Me, I like chocolate."
We're in his second-grade room, and he's telling me about his life, his move to Sioux Falls (he's been here less time than I have), pets that got left behind, likes and dislikes.
I tell him what I do, I pull out my reporter's notebook, my mechanical pencil. I show him my scribble of notes that only I can read.
At the end of our hour, I pull a pocket-sized reporter's notebook out of my jacket.
"Hey, this is for you, I want you to write words down that you're having trouble with or write me questions. Maybe you can take notes, and we'll write our own story."
"Can I draw in it?" he says as I take a Sharpie and write the date and his name on the cover.
"Buddy, you can do whatever you want with it."
The teacher says he's quite the artist. It's never been encouraged.
It will, now.
He purposely holds me back as the rest of the second-graders file into the room. He makes the introductions.
"So I'll see you next week?" I ask.
"You'll be here next Thursday?"
"Yep."
"And every Thursday after that?"
"Yep."
He puts a hand on his head and smiles.
"You've got a fan," the teacher says.
And as I walk to the truck, I'm filled with a happy heart. Sixty minutes of my life spent making a difference.
But there's a sadness, too. The sadness of some of the stories this little 8-year-old boy has shared about his life.
And the knowledge that in Sioux Falls, nearly 1,000 students need mentors.

To find a way to make a difference in your community, click here.

3 comments:

Quin Browne said...

proud of you isn't a big enough phrase...

paisley said...

what an excellent opportunity for both of you.. isn't it nice to find someone that you can just click with... i know he is thinking about you and planning out all the things the two of you can do together... please keep us posted....

www.burkephotography.biz said...

AWESOME! You are doing a great thing! You will both grow so much. Enjoy my friend. I just went hunting pumpkins with Christopher for the 10th year in a row. -Mike