Throughout the years, a few kids have truly cut right into and set-up residence in my heart. I'm not speaking of my own mentees, but others who have busy mentors or kids in other programs. Hoolie calls me a sucker and I suppose she's right.
My second year in the program, I met a young boy at A Place Called Home. He was just hanging around while we had Family Night. He sat outside the room, watching us, looking sad and hopeful - if that's possible. I brought him a soda and talked for a bit. When he left, I had to find out, had to make sure he was in a mentoring program or he would be included in one. Otherwise, I was going to become his mentor.
Saturday, we had a Giving Thanks group mentoring session. A girl I haven't seen for several weeks appeared in the room. Cee is adorable and shy. My recollection of our encounters was clear - she did a minimal amount of talking. I tapped her on the shoulder, said Hi and how I was happy to see her.
In one of our mentors-only session, Cee's mentor expressed concern that she wasn't mentoring 'right' because Cee wasn't talking much. I told the mentor to keep doing what she's doing - calling, emailing, talking, showing up. All of those things make a difference and Cee notices. I shared the story of my 2nd mentee, who wanted nothing to do with me. She didn't talk to me, she talked about me in a stage whisper. She complained to other kids who assured her I was cool. The two of us didn't have a true conversation until January - and the program started in September! So, I assured this mentor that she will make a breakthrough, just keep doing it.
Our Giving Thanks session opened with an ice-breaker. Each person tore toilet paper from a roll then joined the circle. For each square of toilet tissue, you had to say something nice about the person to your right. I was to the right of Cee. Her mentor wasn't at the session. Some of the nice things were superficial - you have nice shoes, I like your shirt, those boots are cool. And some of the things were truly thoughtful - you're a good mentor, you teach me things, you're a good friend. These were really sweet to hear, especially from the young people. When it came to Cee's turn, she listed a combination of sweet and superficially things. Her last comment, though, really got me - I like how you always show up. ::cue the tears::
During lunch, I asked Cee how her mentor was doing. "I don't know. I haven't talked with her in long time." I left that alone but made a note to talk with the program coordinators. While we ate, we also worked on Thanksgiving-themed worksheets. The 7 of us - all girls - were, predictably, chatty and giggly. I noticed Cee didn't need any encouragement or prodding whatsoever. She was just as chatty as the rest of us. Cee talked about Justin Bieber and explained the Team Jacob/Team Edward rivalry to me; she told me about her family and shared a story of an elementary school teacher who wasn't very nice to her. "I would always say hi and smile and she wouldn't even say hi or smile back to me. That wasn't very nice." I assured Cee that she was the better person by continuing to say hi and smile. She could have been mean back to the teacher, but she decided to be nice. She beamed. My heart was just so full at that moment.
After the session, I shared Cee's comments about her mentor with Hoolie. It's not that hard to call or contact your mentee. It's part of the commitment to being a mentor! We get busy, for sure. But, 5 minutes...on a lunch break..."Hey, I'm on a break - hope you have a good week. Just wanted to say hello." Or something. Some effort. Knowing me, Hoolie said "You are such a sucker. And I love you for it." She assured me she would contact Cee's mentor and work things out. I accepted that. But told Hoolie she could give Cee my info if she wanted to.
I drove my mentee and her sister home. As we hugged good-bye, I thanked her for being a good friend by letting Cee join our group. She said *I* was the good friend for including her - "You didn't even ask if she wanted to be with us, you just did it."
My impact in mentoring has never been so evident to me as it was in those two hours on Saturday.