• Susanna Williams

Walking Each Other Home: Why Mentoring Matters Now

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,”

-Rev. Dr. John Watson

This period of isolation has made the need for human connection far more conscious. We no longer rush about “business as usual” because the “usual” of before has been completely erased. We are aware in a new way that the human condition is the most important condition. Meetings now begin with authentic check-ins and vulnerability is welcomed in ways that we never would have imagined before. As the saying goes, “You aren’t working at home during a crisis. You’re managing a crisis while trying to work from home and take care of your family.”

Kids around the country have suddenly had to pivot to digital learning, which has in turn fully exposed the deep inequalities in our country. Their routines and communities were blown apart overnight. Sports- over. Connections with teachers- transformed. Learning- uncertain. For many young people, school provides the only consistency in their lives. School gives them access to a network of caring adults who check in with them daily. And now that’s gone.

For the first time in our lived experience, we are all subject to the same external circumstances at the same time. No one in the United States have lived through mandatory stay-at-home orders before. We have never seen schools and businesses close in one fell swoop for an undefined period of time. There is no direct wisdom that applies here, only analogous lessons that can perhaps help us scaffold our way to new knowledge. And that is why mentoring has never been more important.

This is an unexpectedly great time to begin a mentoring relationship. While you may think that being a mentor requires a superior level of wisdom and insight, during this time of incredible new-ness and uncertainty, we are all in the same boat. The only certainty is uncertainty. This much we know to be true and unchanging, however- people need people. Anyone who has served as a mentor will tell you that it is fully a two-way street. And knowing that you have a relationship with someone whose only obligation is to deeply listen to you is a kind of sanctuary for both for the mentor and the mentee. Building authentic, quality relationships provides the stability from which to engage with a changed world.

For young people whose other caring adults are no longer able to show up in the same way, connecting with a mentor is essential. It is all too easy to get caught up in our own fears during this time. Maintaining connections with others, through online video conversations, texting, old-fashioned phone calls, or even letters, gets us outside of ourselves, which in turn helps us feel safer, less anxious, more present.

We do not lack for questions these days. And while we are still very much finding our way to the answers, the simple act of voicing the questions is how we begin to find our way through this fog. We have few reasons to stand on ceremony any more. We are all more vulnerable than we have been in almost 20 years. That vulnerability is a great place to forge meaningful connections with other human beings and that is the heart of any great mentoring relationship- hearing and reflecting each other’s truth which in turn helps each person grow toward stronger light. If you’re feeling like you want to do something to help but aren’t sure what to do, reach out to a local organization that works with mentors. Forging a relationship with a young adult during this time is an incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact in their life- and yours.

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