The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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When you think of a mentor, who comes to mind? Maybe there’s a specific teacher, an aunt, a family friend, a coach, a grandparent, or youth leader who’s spoken into your life, consistently walking alongside you, encouraging you, offering perspective, wisdom, and always a loving, listening ear. 

Who have those people been in your life? 

January marks National Mentoring Month, a month dedicated to thanking those who have spoken into our lives and considering the impact we too can make on a life if we pass on the gift of mentoring to another. 

Not only is mentoring an emotional and relational encouragement—statistics show that mentoring has tangible benefits to individuals who have a mentor:

  • 55% more likely to enroll in college
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
  • 90% are interested in becoming a mentor and likely to hold leadership positions. (Mentoring.org)
  • 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)
  • 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not. (The Mentoring Effect, 2014) 

As I reflect on my own young adult experiences, I too can recognize the value of a mentor. Growing up, I had a variety of supportive adults in my life, but aside from my family, I wouldn’t have necessarily said I had a designated mentor-figure. I can see now how, had I had an intentional and ongoing mentoring relationship with an ‘outside’ adult, I could have experienced exponential growth much earlier in my life. 

While I may not have experienced an official mentoring relationship as a kid, I now experience the richness of such relationships. Having gained mentorships as an adult, I have been challenged, encouraged, and gently pushed toward growth in ways I hadn’t previously experienced. I’m reminded that there’s value in mentoring for everyone, in every stage of life.

The beauty of mentorship is having a reliable presence you can trust—someone who can listen without judgment, challenge you to think critically, identify and help develop potential, who willingly calls you out to be the best you can be, and who loves intentionally. 

If you’ve had that kind of someone in your life, I challenge you to reach out and thank them this week. Write a personal note. Drop by to offer a face-to-face thank-you. Bake a plate of cookies. Drop off their favorite coffee-to-go at their office. Be sure to let them know how they’ve positively influenced you. And be specific. Share stories, memories, and evidence that you are a better you because of them. 

Can’t think of anybody? That’s okay. Even if you didn’t have an “official” mentor, you can still reach out and thank someone who has positively influenced you. And consider—who in your life could you ask to step into that role, to walk alongside you? It is never too late, there are none too old or too young to have a mentor. Everyone can benefit from someone further along in the journey offering perspective and encouragement in our lives.

And regardless of whether or not you personally have ever had a mentor, consider whose life you can speak into. Who could use encouragement, someone rooting in their corner, someone to consistently affirm who they are and the potential they hold?

Mentors can make a world of difference. To whom can you extend this gift? 

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living — if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” —Denzel Washington