The word "mentor" is intimidating, if you think about it. It suggests a person who has things figured out and, there wouldn't be many of us who'd put ourselves in that category. As soon as you start feeling all self-satisfied, start looking over your shoulder for the freight train of reality.
"I think the day any of us have things figured out, we better start all over again," said Ruth Gordon, director of the Mentor Center of Western Nevada.
Fortunately, you don't have to have everything figured out to make a difference in a child's life. You just have to care enough to give them him or her undivided attention and love.
"It's really about the relationship," she said. "And being a good listener."
That's what the 60 mentors she coordinates through the Mentor Center of Western Nevada have in common.
January is National Mentoring Month, and Gordon has put together a booklet of stories from some of the volunteers and their mentees. Reading them, you begin to understand why mentors give so much of their time. Here are some excerpts:
Why do I mentor? (By Ed)
I became a mentor, because I was asked. I mentor to do childish things, like fly a kite; to rediscover I really was a nerd as a child; and even to do-over parent-like things, only better. I make new friends mentoring, other children, and adults, too. It gives me a good reason to avoid chores and postpone projects. I earn a good rate of return in the local economy of caring - trading smiles, handshakes, hugs, even recipes. Mentoring draws me outside myself, enlarges my life, and places me in the community. It has let downs, but that's okay, since that is the point when me and my young friend (mentee Ð yeesh, what a word) start working to achieve something together. ... Mentoring takes me places I usually do not go, that turn out surprisingly, to be fun...or sometimes at least different, anyway. If I wasn't a mentor, I probably never would have stood next to the flag on C-Hill (been there, done that!). I will continue to mentor my young friend, because making good friends takes time and work, and I am impatient and lazy. Besides, mentoring gets into your blood ... by way of your heart - all things none of us can live well without. You should become a mentor ... I'm asking. I'm asking on behalf on the many other kids I have met that really do need you now.
There are many of those kinds of stories.
I love being a Mentee. I love sewing. First I made a pillow that looks like
leather. I made a wall hanging of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus with a star above Mary's head. The Quilt I am working is like a Christmas and winter quilt. So far the quilt is doing great, and I love my wall hanging and pillow which I did in one day. It may be summer before I get it done.
I put my wall hanging in a quilt show and received a ribbon. I like having a Mentee.
When I started to be a Mentor, I was very hesitant because I was so much older and afraid I couldn't relate to the young girls. Much to my surprise, we enjoyed ourselves very much.
I am always amazed at the different things we can do together.
We went swimming and horseback riding. (I was an observer at that event.)
From Harry and his mentee, Brandon:
Brandon and I are really hitting it off well. We plan ahead of time what we will do the following week. He's learning the forehand on the tennis court - handling chopsticks like a pro at King's Buffet - filling his plate of different condiments before handing it to the fry cook at the Mongolian Barbecue section of the restaurant.
Our day always starts and ends on JAC (the Carson City public bus system) and all the drivers know him. When we first started on the bus, he rarely spoke. Now he is outgoing and communicates one-on-one with the drivers. This Fall, we have been to many functions, including both the Children's and State Museum, the October Fest at Mills Park listening to the German band, both the Public Library and State Archives & Library, the bowling lanes at Piñon Plaza and the multitude of get-togethers over the Christmas Holidays.
What I like best of our relationship is that it gives me something to look forward to every weekend.
I like having a mentor because I have someone to hang out with or have fun with. My mentor Harry and I usually go to Topsy Lane and go to King's Buffet, Trader Joes, Borders and Maytan to play drums for 10 minutes. We sometimes do different things like go to the State Museum or the Nugget Buffet. ... I love having a mentor.
If you're interested in becoming a mentor, visit www.wncc.edu/mentor or call 445-3346. There's also an orientation coming up on Tuesday, Jan. 23 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ron Wood Family Resource Center in the Crossroads Shopping Center on East Winnie Lane.
The Mentor Center, which is a program of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada, has a list of 16 boys ages 7-14 and four girls ages 13-15 waiting to be matched with mentors.
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. Contact him at 881-1221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.