I’ll admit it. But please, don’t tell my mother.
I wasn’t much of a student in high school. It’s not that I couldn’t do the work – or even that the work was very difficult. The reality was that I exerted the least amount of effort, and did the minimum amount of work, expecting only to get by and do only what was required of me.
Looking back now, my whole high school career could probably be summed up with a variation of a famous quip:
I did so much, with so little, for so long, that I learned how to do practically anything better than anyone else with nothing.
Of course, my parents gave me “the speech” on numerous occasions. Teachers cajoled and encouraged. They all lamented my wasted potential, but I regularly thought they were wasting their time reminding me of the facts.
Curiously, I find myself giving my son the same speech – even using some of the same words. Shockingly, my inspiring pep talks often seem to fall on deaf ears.
But there was one teacher with whom I connected and whose influence left a lasting impression.
My science teacher, Mr. Boomer knew how to motivate his students. His enthusiasm was contagious. Truth be told, he was an eccentric and the kids were drawn to him. He loved what he did – and it showed. He presented things in a fresh way and communicated more effectively than my parents and every other teacher – combined. He had that almost magical quality that every teacher wants to possess.
Or did he?
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Mr. Boomer was mentoring me. He took an interest in what I was doing and personalized the lessons to connect with my temperament.
When I was thinking about starting Need Project, I had the opportunity to talk with a man who had founded one of the biggest ministries in the world. I shared my dream with him. His encouragement and confidence in the idea gave me the confirmation I needed to take a leap of faith.
At an even more critical time in my life, when our son was small and struggling, there were times when I wasn’t so sure I could make it. The doctor visits and medical issues were overwhelming. At the time, we met a couple at church whose teenage daughter suffered from Myelomeningocele, commonly known as Spina bifida. It turned out to be a divine appointment.
As our friendship developed, I had the opportunity to talk with the girl’s father on occasion. Many times, I simply watched them. I saw them making it as a family. I quickly realized they had made it as a family! Their life wasn’t a weed-free garden, but we saw the flowers and enjoyed what we saw!
All of these people – and many more – have mentored me. Maybe not in the traditional sense of spending long periods of time talking and coaching, but they invested in me and made a big difference over the course of my life. The investment they made in me may not be remembered by them, but you can be certain that I’ll never forget it.
They said to me “you can” when at a time in my life I wasn’t so sure I could. Like Norman Vincent Peale used to suggest, collectively, they taught me to take the “T” off the “Can’t.”
We need people in our lives that help us see the other side of our current situation.
We need mentors.
One of Dictionary.com’s definitions for mentor is “an influential senior sponsor or supporter.” It is important for those who feel overwhelmed to have someone to look to for advice and perspective.
To know someone else has made it gives me confidence to face my own issues.
If you’re overwhelmed in your current circumstances, I would urge you to seek out another family or individuals who have encountered similar challenges.
If you’re a parent whose children have grown, perhaps you might consider investing in families with younger children. The time you spend can make a lifetime of difference.