- What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a mentor? Just being of assistance to a lovely woman and her wonderful kids; seeing her kids open up and talk about themselves, their joys and their troubles; finding a job for the mother that is a perfect fit – where she not only benefits, but those with whom she works benefit even more; and gaining a lifelong friendship. In addition, I had the opportunity to gain more new friends as I also got to know the fellow people within the mentoring group. I have added to my own support system, should the need arise.
- How did you overcome the challenge of finding time to build a friendship with the family? Our group’s mother has as busy a schedule as I do, so we both understand the need to pounce on any mutually-convenient time to get together, whenever that may be. It was necessary to be very flexible and work around things that came up with absolutely no guilt or hard feelings assigned if something needed to be changed. My role is to provide support and relieve stress and never to provide any additional stress. Having fellow members in our group with varying availability made it possible to cover most all of our mother’s needs.
- What kinds of activities did you do with the mother and/or her children? In addition to “group” events, I bring dinner to their home for all of them; have little mini discussions with the kids when I drop things off; and I meet with the mother on a monthly basis for lunch and conversation.
- In what ways did you see the mentors in your group each contributing something unique to the mentoring process? We have a very diverse group in age, profession and life experience. Each person offers something unique and special to the family. Some are grandparents who are pros at shopping for teenagers and knowing what they need; some helped in the job search and resume preparation area; some helped in the remodeling and repair of the family’s new home; some are retired and can assist in transportation when needed; some, like me, are contemporaries of the mother and can share common experiences.
- How did your experience as a mentor change you as a person? I always believe that I end up gaining much more from the people I supposedly “help” than they do from me. To help relieve stress from someone, give them a sounding board, and mostly to validate what they are feeling always keeps me grounded and less self-absorbed. Sharing lives and hearts and minds with people creates a very warm feeling that helps me sleep well at night.
- How did your experience as a mentor change the way you viewed others? I’ve known for a very long time (and continue to remind myself) that I should never judge someone because of a label – any of us can be “homeless” in the blink of an eye . . . any of us can suffer an injustice in the blink of an eye that changes our lives forever and leaves us feeling hopeless. We must keep our minds and our hearts open, remove labels, and get to know someone as an individual.
- If you could give advice to someone who was starting out as a mentor, what would it be? Do it! You may think that you don’t have anything special to offer, but each of us is special in our own way. We should all be walking through life reaching out our hands to people who are around us. We will be all the better and enriched for it.