The other morning, I happened to catch a view minutes of The View. Sometimes that show gets on my nerves because they all talk at the same time, but on Monday, each of the hosts had a segment about her mentor. Shari’s was a spiritual mentor, the minister of her church. Whoopi’s mentor was a director/producer who helped her get started in the business by introducing her to the right folks, and by casting her in movies.
As I listened, I began to consider whom I considered to be my mentor. I couldn’t come up with just one name because I feel that I have different mentors for different purposes. The first person who came to mind was Donna Fenn, a dear friend of mine who died about five years ago from cancer. Donna was an amazing lady. She was an incredible teacher, a down-to-earth friend, and someone who made me laugh hard and often. She is one of the reasons I became a teacher. My two older daughters were blessed to have Donna as a teacher, and I was fortunate enough to spend time in her classroom, both with my girls, and as an observer when I was working on my teaching degree. I couldn’t wait to have a classroom and to be able to teach with Donna. Unfortunately, that never happened. Donna’s cancer was aggressive, and in much too short a time, took her life. Her death was truly tragic because she had so much to give and brought such light into our world. I have missed Donna every day. I miss watching her with my girls; I miss going to church with her; I miss her laughter when she did something silly; I miss learning from her. Anytime something comes up at school that I struggle with, I wonder how Donna would have handled it. I think about how she loved and nurtured children. I strive every day to be just half as good as she was, and for that, I am a better teacher. She helped shape the person I am today.
Two others whom I consider to be my mentors have also lost battles with cancer. One was my Aunt Loretta, and the other was my Great Aunt Martyne. These ladies were so very special. They were the type who made me feel better about myself just by being around them. When I went through hard times, they never judged me, they just continued to love me. They both enjoyed life, and cherished their families. I want to be the type of person who uplifts others. I want to make those whom I come in contact with feel better about themselves after having spent time with me. I really don’t know how to go about doing that; I hope it is a gift passed down to me by my dear aunts.
I also have running mentors. My friend Kim is my ‘go-to’ girl for running advice. She is the one who kept encouraging me to just get to that first mile. She has been an amazing supporter, and I hope that I, too, can always give her the support she needs. My boss and friend, Laura, was also a major influence in my early running. I would whine to her that I would never be able to run very far, and she would tell me that she knew I would run a half marathon. She was right. Her belief in my ability helped carry me through when I didn’t really believe in myself. My husband is an amazing running mentor. Had he not first laced up his running shoes, I would never have taken my first step. Seeing this man, who is 16 years my senior AND has an artificial knee, get out and start to run forced me to drop all of my excuses and give it a try. There are times when running is so difficult for him it would be easy to just give up, but he keeps on getting out there, and that keeps me out there. When I am feeling ultra whiny and wondering why I ever thought I could call myself a runner, I think about the effort Gary puts in, and I keep putting one foot in front of the other. My running mentors, along with the girls who listen to me whine while running – Jackie, Kassi, and Jennifer – are so appreciated. I probably don’t tell them that often enough, so hopefully they’re reading!
Doing the right thing. It seems like an easy concept, but it isn’t always that easy, is it? Sometimes we just get pissed, and doing the wrong thing is our natural reaction. Sometimes we are tired, and doing the wrong thing is just easier. Sometimes we just don’t like certain people, and THEY do the wrong thing, so why should we do the right thing? I struggle with this (shocking, I know!). So I happen to have a ‘do-the-right-thing’ mentor. And I also happen to be married to him. My husband has made me a better person. He honestly lives his life by doing what is right, even when no one is looking. He is the most selfless person I know. He is always willing to help someone, even when it is most inconvenient. When I have a decision to make, I know that I can count on him to lead me in the right direction, even when sometimes that means going the opposite way that my selfish self wants to go. Gary does all of this, but not many people know about it. One of the most impressive qualities about my husband is that he is always serving others, but wants no recognition for that service. There are many people who help out their communities, but every time they do something good, they also have to have their pictures in the newspaper so everyone knows about it. Not Gary. He works behind the scenes. He does it because it’s the right thing to do.
I cannot list my mentors without listing my sister. I would consider her my faith mentor. She is eleven years older than I, but rather than think that I was just an annoying little sister (which I was), she has always been so good to me. She has been my biggest cheerleader, no matter what I have tried. I have always said I could run a house of prostitution, and she would still say I ran the best one around. My sister has amazing faith, and it has carried her through some dark times. The strength she has through her faith in God is incredible, and has, in turn, made my faith stronger. My sister is also the kindest person I know. She is just genuinely sweet – though I have seen a little spunk in recent years. I appreciate my sister and her love so much. I hope that I have been able to show that love and support to her. She is a great mom, aunt, and wife as well. Much of who I am is because of who she is (Feel free to quote me on that !).
Who is your mentor? Do you have that one person in your life who has influenced you, or are there many? Who do you mentor? I don’t know of anyone who would consider me a mentor, but I hope that I can make a difference in others’ lives. I love my nieces and nephew dearly, and hope that in some small way, I have served as a role model to each of them. I hope that Donna and my aunts knew how much they meant to me, and that Kim, Laura, Gary, and Bobbi know the influence they have had on my life. I know that there will be other mentors as I continue on my journey. I would love to have a writing mentor. I secretly consider Kristen Armstrong to be a mentor, though I have never met her. She is a runner, who has the perfect career of getting to write about her running and her faith. I love her open, honest style of writing. Maybe she’ll mentor me…
My Sister, Bobbi and I…