“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
“I feel so good when I’m pregnant,” said my friend Donna with a smile. Donna then proceeded to walk me into the ground, her pace outstripping any regular human female. “Who IS this woman?!” I said to myself as I started to sweat, trying to keep up with her long, fast strides. Obviously, pregnancy did agree with her. At seven months along or more, she was a machine! Maybe pregnancy made her even faster than normal. I had no idea. I wasn’t pregnant or married. I was just hanging out with my friend.
Donna was four years older than me and she was a hoot! Super funny, definitely a free spirit who loved God and other people. I met her at a retreat where the topic was self-esteem. I had none at the time so there you go—a perfect fit. Donna sat with me and helped me process through some of the negative self-concepts I had acquired. She was honest and wise and let me think through issues for myself. Slowly, I started to change as some of those painful and difficult areas inside me started to drop away. I miss Donna to this day. She was my first mentor. She let me hang out with her, watch her life and learn. It wasn’t stilted at all, just life-giving.
Fast forward three kids and a career later. I am quickly learning that trying to be superwoman isn’t working out very well for me. It feels lonely trying to do everything and be everything for everyone. Of course these are pressures I’m placing on myself, but they sure feel real as I try to keep up with the other women working and raising kids around me and doing it all, too. I begin to recognize that I still need a mentor! When don’t we?
Seriously, I think we all have a misguided notion that when we are true grownups we don’t need anyone else to show us ways to approach life. I’m using the word “show” intentionally. We can all read books and watch videos, but watching someone’s life is so different! When Donna had that baby of hers, I watched how she loved her daughter, talked to her and took care of her. I also made decisions about what I would do differently if I ever had the opportunity to be a mother. Mentoring is NOT about perfection; it’s about honesty lived out. My husband, who is a pastor, puts it this way: “A hand forward and a hand back.” Who do we have in our lives today that is mentoring us, helping us forward in life/faith/work/parenting, and who are we reaching back for, helping others in those same areas.
Sometimes mentoring does not go by any name at all. Donna and I never talked about how she was mentoring me. I think we both knew that we clicked as friends and she was a few steps ahead of me in several areas, so we laughed and had deep talks together. Over time, so much good happened in my life as a result. Is there someone in your life currently that you find yourself watching and wanting to hang out with, perhaps learn from? Call her. Go out and hang at any number of coffee shops and talk. There’s no pressure here, just possibilities. Maybe she’s a colleague at work and you’re wondering how to manage business with home life. Perhaps she’s a single mom and you need ideas and support in your own journey. A hand forward and a hand back is a great way to approach real life.
I took my superwoman cape off a long time ago and recognized the need for women a few steps ahead of me speaking into my life. And don’t leave the kids out! My daughter Hannah had a mentor in one of my dear friends as a teenager. Let me tell you was that an absolutely brilliant idea! Sherawn and Hannah would get together and talk about life every couple of weeks. They established a good friendship. Having Sherawn as a mentor in my daughter’s life enabled her to have another healthy woman who was super fun and wise, but wasn’t mom, that she could confide in. Bonus: when Hannah and I would butt heads, she would go hang out with Sherawn and somehow Sherawn could get away with saying certain things I couldn’t. Well, I could but then Hannah and I would have a fight and…you know. Ugh. Sherawn was not a surrogate mom. She did not fill my shoes at all, but she provided assistance in helping my daughter grow up into the beautiful woman she is today.
May I ask a gentle question? Who is your ‘hand forward?’ Who is your ‘hand back?’ Mentoring contains elements of valuing others and ourselves, being willing to listen, learn, change and grow. 2017 could be a real time of forward movement personally when instead of making stale resolutions by ourselves, we invite someone to walk alongside us and share our experiences together.