True Confession: I don’t want to be a mentor.

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I have a confession to make: I don’t want to be a mentor.

I know what the research says about the potential benefits of mentoring: better academic performance, better school attendance, positive attitudes, decreased likelihood of getting involved with drugs and alcohol, decreased violent behavior and on and on. Even more important than that, I know from my own experience that one relationship with someone who will hold a hand, or listen, or impart a little confidence and a hug every now and then can be a life-changer. A person who can open up your eyes to some possibilities you might not have seen on your own can make a huge difference for the good. I know that was true for me, and I believe it is true for all kids.

I believe in the power of mentoring – but – I still don’t want to do it.

My mental image of mentoring involves spending significant amounts of time bonding emotionally with a child or young person. To be perfectly honest, neither the time nor the bonding sounds like me right now. I am already so busy I am at risk of (1) forgetting what my husband looks like and (2) dying an early death from fast-food induced coronary disease. Also, I’m just not that great with kids. I don’t mind them in limited numbers and for short amounts of time, but I’m not a “kid person.” I’m even worse with youth. They make me nervous; I wasn’t even really that comfortable around them when I was one of them.

All of this was in the back of my mind this week when I met with Josh Lawson to talk about the “Adult Champions” learning track that he is helping to plan for the upcoming Greater Waco Community Education Alliance Summit. Clever girl that I am, I quickly figured out that “Adult Champions” could very easily be code for “mentoring” – so I was on my guard. Josh was way ahead of me though.

josh pic

Education Summit planning meeting. Josh is the one with the beard.

Josh, if you don’t know him, is the Director of Community Engagement at Antioch Community Church. He also has a big vision for kids in Waco. He wants to deploy (at least) 1000 mentors in Waco. He wants Waco to be a city with a culture of mentoring. He believes in mentoring. You can see why I was wary!

But the great thing about Josh is he knows how to look around the edges of a problem for new insights. Also, he believes in the idea that different people have different gifts – all of which can be put to good use for Waco and for Waco’s kids. We had a terrific conversation about how, for example, he’s working with a group of computer programmers at Baylor who are not interested in being mentors, but who might be able to develop a database for matching up mentors and mentees. He talked about people who might not be willing to use their limited time to serve as a mentor – but who might be able to use that same amount of time to recruit many mentors. He talked about how some people are put off by a long time commitment, but how there are opportunities to spend as little as 30 minutes a week reading with kids during lunch.

There are those of you who have the gift for the “traditional” mentoring scenario – please step forward! We need you! (Some places you can contact: Communities In Schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Talitha Koum) And — there is also a part to play for those of us who don’t have that particular gift, but who have other gifts that could be brought to bear.

All of this reminded me of a quote that my church often uses in the worship bulletin on the Sunday when we ordain our deacons. The words come from my own faith tradition, Christianity, but I trust the spirit of the idea will resonate with people of many faiths. I’ll leave you with it as my way of saying, Thanks Josh!

“You have an unrepeatable purpose as a priest of Christ. It is not to learn someone else’s skills, or to project a personality you do not have, to say words that are not your words, or to do anything at all that is alien to who you are and the gifts that are already in your hands. Be who you are, do what you do, tell what you know: your style, your stuff, your way, your gift . . . . There is a way of saying the name of Christ that only your life can say.” —Paul Duke

This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton. If you would be interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please email [email protected] and let us know. Thanks!

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