On Being a Mentor

I’m a mentor at my local elementary school. I had been feeling like I was missing being around children. Mine a grown and have full lives of their own; boyfriends, girlfriend, jobs, social lives, homes to clean, dog to walk … all the things that they’re supposed to have as young adults. I did my job as a mother and as a result of having done it well, my kids have moved on and are building lives of their own. It’s a good thing. And I was still feeling like I had something to offer to children. So I signed up as a volunteer with our local school district not really knowing where it would lead.

A little over a year ago, I got a call from the counselor at my local elementary school. She was looking for a mentor for a student – a third grade foster child. While the “warming up” was slow, I know now that she was holding herself back because she’d been disappointed by adults who had been in her life and was hesitant to trust that  would stick with her. We had a great time visiting over lunch at school every week. I often brought a little craft project or a book to read together or a puzzle to solve and was there for her when she decided she wanted to talk. When I met her, her foster family was going to adopt her. This fall, she moved again to a former foster home two and a half hours away from me. Now, I choose to drive down to visit with her every other week – I started out visiting every week but she’s so well adjusted now, I know she’s OK when I’m not there every week. But at first, she was having a rough time.

Last night, her “foster mom” called me and we had a face time session. I love to see her snuggled up at home and smiling because her report card was a good one and she’d been to a fun Super Bowl party. Normalcy is a good thing for children. Especially those who’ve had a rough start.

Last week I got a call from my neighborhood school again. This time, there’s a little third grader who is in crisis. Grandmother takes care of her and her siblings and cousins. We’re going to meet again next week and I’ll help her get up to speed on her math and be there for her so she feels important to somebody. No strings. No manipulation. Just a grown-up who’s there for her. This one is adorable, too. And so needy.

I’m so lucky to be able to work with these two little girls. They help me as much as I help them. They give me purpose and allow me to give something back to the community that I live in. And they give me joy – a lot of good laughs despite their difficult circumstances and hugs. There’s nothing like the full-heart feeling that you get when you make a difference in the life of a child. And there are so many children today who need a solid adult presence in their lives.

All you have to have is an hour a week and a phone to call your local school … you won’t be sorry. I’m proof!

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