A smart person watches for mentors and then pays attention. I take sinful pride in the handful of people I have chosen to watch and try to emulate. They don’t know how much I’m watching them, how I absorb their movements, habits, comments, even their body language. It’s all done almost without my thinking about it. I don’t always do a good job of following in their footsteps. But I think your choice of mentors reflects on you almost as much as how closely you follow them. And I think my choices reflect on me in a good light.
I am attracted to mentors who aren’t flashy women. They have usually been the quiet and gentle sort who are serious about living their faith in the background more than center stage.
Joy Mullins was the second generation of four generations of a family I’ve been privileged to know. Her mother was also one of my mentors. Both women were firm in their faith. Edith Fletcher was solid as a rock where Joy was more fragrant as a flower. Neither women wavered nor wilted when times got tough. I would like to try to be more like that.
They were background people. Neither was given to speech making. They had a combination of strength and humility that I’ve long sought but have a lot of trouble maintaining. One of the things that keeps me straight is knowing that there may be some one out there watching me. And now that I’m getting older, (albeit no wiser from my vantage), I am aware that others may be watching or listening to me. I’m certainly old enough to be a mentor. And I have enough respect for my own mentors to hope that I might be passing along some of those same values and principles. Any pride I take in this reflects on them, on a set of values rather than my own talents.
Pick your mentors well. It’s a great privilege to find people we can watch and learn from. No one can tell us who to pick and many times it’s done so quietly and without fanfare that no one notices the process. There’s no International Mentor Day, no license to apply for or aptitude test to take in order to follow someone’s example, no books to buy. The whole journey is usually invisible to everyone around you.
Faith can’t really be taught; faith is usually caught. One receives it more by osmosis than by direct instruction. Those who are animated by living faith, openly trusting in God and one another, pass on faith. Children who grow up where the family’s faith is generating love, where a fulfilling life vision is being celebrated, and the inner meaning of things is taken seriously, naturally receive the gift of faith. Children do not imitate what their parents dutifully believe nearly as much as they are attracted to what authentically excites their parents.
If a person is teaching religion without offering some energetic faith to catch, then teaching religion is largely a waste of time. It actually becomes an immunization and blockage against the real thing, as so many of us have learned. Real faith is too real to ignore or to dismiss.
Richard Rorh: Radical Grace: Daily Meditations
I still have a few of my old mentors out there. And here’s the really cool part: I’m starting to find mentors among the young people I know. Mentoring is about a set of values more than life experiences. You can learn from those younger than yourself and I do it all the time.
You might take stock today and think about the people in your life whose habits and words you respect. See if you can figure out how to be more like them.
A couple of years ago I heard somebody talking about their family’s unique July 4th tradition. Whichever family members had passed away during the previous year would be cremated and their ashes set aside. On July 4th the family gathers and sends the ashes of their beloveds into the sky on a burst of fireworks. What a way to go!
And what a wonderful thing to have the dust of your mentors fall gently from the sky and rain down upon you. Thanks be to God.