Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Am a Mentor

January is National Mentoring Month, and today mentors, mentees, youth mentoring organizations and mentoring advocates across America are invited and encouraged to join "I Am a Mentor" social media day.

In short, not only does mentoring work, it is also life been life changing...for me.  I met Sieara at my first Camp Hope in 2008.  I was one of two adult counselors in her cabin, and if I'm completely honest, she tested every amount of patience I had (which isn't much) and pushed every button she could with her attitude.  She was this beautiful but sassy teenager with an eye roll that made the entire room cold.  She had a way of completely changing the dynamics in a room...for better or worse.  Mid-week, I was ready for Sieara, or rather her attitude, to just go home.  After Camp Hope, I had the pleasure of calling to notify her that she would have to repeat a level of camp due to her attitude.  Naturally, she wasn't thrilled, but at the end of the conversation, her attitude softened as she thanked us for recent financial assistance that the office was able to provide to her mom.  When I asked Sieara if there was anything else before our conversation ended, she said, "My birthday is this week."  Something about her change of tone, gratitude and innocence made me realize there was more to this girl - more than what I experienced at Camp Hope.

A few months after that, we just sort of chose one another as Mentor/Mentee.  At a seperate Camp Hope event, I told her that I would love to visit her more often.  A few days after that event, I received a phone call from an unknown number.  It was Sieara on the other line telling me she was ready for a visit.
That first visit sparked a relationship I don't think either one of us expected.  I still remember sitting across from her, just 15 years-old, in the booth at Pizza Hut sharing pizza and life together.  Since then, we've shared more meals than we can count, lots of laughs, equally as many quiet visits, some tears, and probably a few eye-rolls...and not just from her.  Sieara challenged me probably in more ways than she realizes.  I received a taste of what my mom experienced when I was a teenage girl.  We actually did argue in a mall one time that she couldn't buy ripped jeans.  We have a no cell phone rule during meals that she insists on testing almost every time...she thinks I don't notice her looking down at her lap.  She opened my eyes to the harsh reality that some people live in, but that love does still exist in those dark places.  She pushed me to realize that rather than conforming her to my comfort-level, I needed to be willing to be open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. 
And there were glimpses of joy and pure happiness that I'm so grateful I've been able to witness over our four years together.  All moments that I would have missed if I had not started viewing her through God's eyes.  The ways her eyes lit up when we celebrated her 16th birthday at The Cheesecake Factory.  How she closes her eyes before she blows out the candle, really wishing on something great.  The way she laughs with her friends.  How full of life she is at camp.  The contagious smile she has as she goes down the slide into Pool 2 at Rock Eagle.  Her adventurous spirit.  Trying sushi for the first time, and liking it.  Holding Sam for the first time and tweeting his picture calling him, "my boo."  Crying tears and both of us knowing her pain without saying a word.

I started mentoring to be a positive influence, but mentoring no longer contains the relationship I have with Sieara.  She's my friend, she's my mentor in so many ways, and she is my daughter.

Mentoring DOES work.  It changed me. 

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