I’m going to spend most of Tuesday talking to people about mentors, so naturally, I’m thinking about the process. I think at most points in our lives, we look up to someone, whether a parent or other relative, a teacher, clergy or someone else who helps set us along our path in life (for good or ill).
Having that kind of influence makes a tremendous difference in how we live those lives. A positive influence, even if it’s not major, can mean the difference between Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler (maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you get the point). It can mean a person sees the right way to go and actually wants to go that way.
A lot of times, being a mentor to someone is accidental. That is, you just sort of fall into a situation where a younger or less-experienced person ends up looking to you for leadership or guidance. It might not have been something you were looking for, or even acknowledge as a mentor-mentee situation, but through saying and doing the right things, a path to a better life is laid out. There are the particularly noble people who seek those kinds of situations, volunteering to reach out to kids less fortunate and offer what help they can. A couple of reporters I’ve worked with over the years went the Big Sister route. Both were good people to start with; I know their experiences made them and the young people they worked with even better.
Of course, nothing is perfect. A lot of businesses create contrived “mentor” programs, pairing more experienced employees with newer people to guide them through the wilds of the workplace. Hey — we used to call that “training.”
Anyway, back on point. The thing I’m working on is the “Team Up” program of the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation. Check out their website. Maybe you can help somebody who needs someone to look up to.