What I learned from those who cross the street

One thing is for sure that life sneaks up on us and surprises us and we need to be ready for it. Mike, the college student for whom we raised $5 had no idea what an impact he made on our lives.

My father taught at a small Bible college in Nebraska and my family basically lived on campus. Our house was located on the street between the dorms and the main class rooms, chapel and dining room. Needless to say we got to see the college kids every day and we were invited to be a part of their lives in many ways.

I don’t think they knew what they were doing, but by simply choosing to cross the street to say hello to my sisters and I as we played or sat watching them go by, they were leaving a mark on our lives. Mike was one of those students. Mike would take time to not only say hello, but he’d talk with us. He invested in my sister Connie by listening to her ideas and was willing to share some of his ideas with her. By doing so, he told her she was important, and being important is a big deal when you’re 11. It’s a big deal when you’re 35.

There were lots of students who would cross the street to talk to us, we’d adopt them as our big brothers and sisters and we saw our family of five grow by 20 to 30 members each school year.  Their investment in me has impacted the way I’ve chosen to live, the things I came to care about and the importance I feel about investing in others.

I often wonder if the college students, youth leaders, and adults who spent time with me knew they were mentoring me or if they just liked hanging out with a goofy little girl. I like that I don’t know if I was officially mentored. I like feeling like people chose to spend time with me because they liked me. There is a certain power to that. I hope that people I choose to invest in don’t know that I’m mentoring them. I hope they just feel loved.

I’ve learned a few things about being a mentor from those who poured into me. First I learned that not all mentors know that they are mentors. I doubt Mark and Gordon knew how much I watched them and how much it meant to me that they brought me a Coke and a candy bar when I got strep throat. I doubt Patti knows that laying out in her back yard getting sunburned taught me to take time to be with people. I seriously doubt that Liz knew that by trusting me to be in her apartment when she wasn’t there, showed me I was a trustworthy person.

I also learned that mentors come in all kinds of packages, some formal, some informal. And, each mentor plays a role in the development of a person.

I learned that a good mentor is a person who loves a someone where they are and invests in them so that they grow and become and develop.  A good mentor likes the person they hang out with and is just as willing to be a learner as they are a teacher. A good mentor shows up and goes the extra mile or simply crosses the street. A good mentor remembers.

There is a need in the world for mentors. People need others to love them, invest in them and care for them. We all need those things at whatever our age. There is a need for people to pour into the fatherless, the motherless, the single, the married, and well frankly we all need it and we all need to give of our selves to others. There are people around you who need your voice, your time, your energy, support, love, creativity and passion to be a part of their becoming and growing. Those people may be kids, perhaps they are employees, maybe they are a young couple in your church or maybe she is a new mother in your neighborhood.

Choosing to invest in another does take effort and awareness. It does take a willingness to lay down yourself for the life of another, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or even that much out of your way. The college students didn’t have to go far to see my sisters and me, we were across the street, all they had to do was cross it. There are all kinds of people around us. The world is full of  ‘em. Who are the people for which you need to cross the street? By doing so, who knows, maybe someone will blog about you in 25 years.

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