Often unbeknownst to ourselves, we have stunning strengths and abilities that we can share with others. Mentoring is one way of doing that.
Recently, I began mentoring a community worker. I am enjoying the process enormously.
Aviva and I get together once a month and talk about her goals and objectives in her job and how she is pursuing them. While we don’t spend a lot of time together, every moment of our interaction is valuable. It is because I give her the opportunity to mirror her professional ideas and personal vision for her future. It is because our time together gives me the chance to sharpen my listening skills, to understand what goes through the mind of another community worker who also works with lay professionals, a board, volunteers and staff.
Since we began our chavruta (learning friendship), Aviva has developed a personal mission statement that has clarified her overall objectives in life. We have discussed the children’s books she loves (The Giving Tree is one of them), her love of Judaism and the Jewish People, and her weekly read of the parshat hashavuah – the Torah portion.
(Aviva’s take on Joseph, Jacob’s son, is that he deserved the treatment he got from his brothers as he was arrogant, cocky, and wore his coat of many colours flamboyantly and with an exaggerated sense of self-possession. A colleague of mine disagreed with her and said that Joseph had passed a number of Jacob’s test and was an upright and unwavering young man. Either way, she had a take on the Torah, and I found, as a mentor, that that was exciting and hopeful, as her Judaism clearly played a role in her leadership.)
Our weekly agenda is organized, although our back-and-forth doesn’t look as if it is. Aviva and I walk. We then talk. We even sing. But throughout, we have a good sense of where we’re headed.
The act of mentoring has shown me how wonderful it is to be a teacher, offering up some experience I have gained over the years, and how wonderful it is to be a student. Aviva is a very bright person, with great intuition and well-honed talents. I ask her questions about her profession and listen closely as she tells me what she has done in the Jewish community both locally and internationally, with children, teens and adults. She understands, better than I do, what makes our young people tick and the challenge of overcoming the sense of entitlement that so many of our children have. She uses the secular to explain the religious and the holy to clarify the mundane. I am her student.
Find yourself someone to mentor and give them your all. Listen closely to what they are trying to achieve and work with them to create an agenda for how their objectives can be met. Read with them, learn together and study. And most importantly, draw upon your years of experiences and share with the person you’re mentoring all that worked for you, and still does, and the pitfalls to avoid.
Celebrate your past as you share, and be a colourful, provocative and riveting mentor. You might be surprised at how mentoring will help you grow and what you can do for others. It’s not hard to find someone to mentor. Go online. Phone your local community organizations and offer your services, or advertise in The CJN.
Mentoring can change two lives.