Originally posted Fall 2010. I stopped mentoring a few months back and share this in the hope someone else will take up the baton. There is a need everywhere!
Mentoring—or more accurately, the thought of mentoring— used to really scare me. Here are the top 3 reasons
- I don’t like kids
- I don’t understand kids
- I don’t like kids
Then, I decided to actually check it out. I had financially supported The Mentoring Project for a couple years. I had a little bit of time then –see “Tired” below—and so wrote a couple emails. Then another and another and another over a year or so. I wondered why they weren’t answered at the time, but I think if I went to a class or orientation the first time I inquired I would have left thinking it wasn’t for me. Doing it after having time to think and study, things changed. So when the time was right I became connected.
I still wasn’t fond of kids and definitely still didn’t understand them. But I was ready to give it a shot. So I met with a guy and then another. I sat through an orientation. Filled out forms. Sat in a coffee shop telling someone about how awesome I was and how much I was willing to hang out with a kid.
The entire time I was stressing about how much I was going to mess some kid up. I didn’t return phone calls for days. Or reschedule meetings until the following week. I thought of every excuse in the book. My work won’t let me leave early— but they did (and in fact have put up with 4 schedule changes in the five months thus far). I wouldn’t be matched—but was… very quickly. My friends would think I am weird—actually they almost all thought it was awesome.
Somehow my delays and struggles and doubts didn’t stop me from showing up at the match meeting. Up until that point I could have run away. It was now too late. I remember leaving that meeting thinking “What did I just do? A year minimum with some stranger who is 10 years old and from a different race, culture, city, socioeconomic status…? Really?”
The first week we met he told me a lot of jokes. I told him some and we laughed. Then we played Connect Four for 45 minutes. About the time I couldn’t go on any more, the time was up. As I drove away I was wondering what we would play the next week. And kind of hoped it wasn’t Connect Four.
It wasn’t. We played SpongeBob Sorry. For 50 minutes. And the next weeks more Connect Four, Battleship, Uno and when it was nice outside we shot some hoops. And occasionally we talked. I started hearing about his family, his absent father, over worked mother who loved him a lot, his siblings, his teachers…
It’s been five months now and I look forward to Wednesday afternoons. We still play a lot of board games and occasionally chat. But I am cool with that.
Work was intense a couple weeks ago. There was more to do than hours available and so I canceled on my buddy. Later that day, I realized that Wednesday afternoons at 4 pm is a positive moment in my busy week. I thought I was supposed to be teaching him and listening to him. But he has taught me how to rest. To sit and play a game over and over. To laugh and smile and just enjoy life. To ask permission and take chances. Things I don’t have to do, so don’t very often anymore. But things that are part of the code a 10 year old lives by.
I kind of like this kid, and what he is teaching me. But I still don’t understand them all.