The investment of time

Consider for a minute some special event that you recall growing up, while I share one of mine:

Until I was in grade school, my mother taught piano from home. I recall one afternoon that a man we knew from church came and dropped off his daughter for a lesson and invited me to go get an ice cream cone.

Now, quick sidebar here, this was the ’80’s and that was a completely acceptable thing for him to ask and for my mother to allow.

Being a red-blooded American, there is only one thing I love more than ice cream, and that’s puppies. So, of course, I accepted. It was an ice cream cone after all. Nothing weird happened. It was just a grown up being friends with a kid. So, why after all these years, do I recall so vividly all the details surrounding that day?

It’s because of how he made me feel. For a few moments, I was the only thing going on in this guy’s life. He could have done what every other parent did when they dropped a kid off for lessons and pay no attention to me whatsoever. But he didn’t. He spent time with me.

When considering the impact of mentoring in communities, it’s important to understand how it’s being measured. Because a frequent objection I hear is that people just don’t have the time to invest in a project like that. The truth is that whatever time you have is enough. You just need to be around.

Children, especially younger ones, have very little understanding of money. But they completely understand time. So, while they won’t object to you spending all your money on them, they would rather have your time. Consider it another way:  If you were to give them the most expensive gift they asked for but mailed it to them, they might appreciate it but they would likely not remember anything about it a week later;  However, if you had nothing to give them at all but showed up and just said, “Let’s hang out.”, I can assure you that would be the part they remembered. They would not remember the expensive toy at all, but they, like me and my delicious ice cream cone, would remember the time you spent with them, probably forever.

The point is that you don’t have to quit your job and spend 100 hours a week volunteering at the neighborhood school to make an impact. My recommendation is to give up your lunch once a week and go eat it with a kid at school who doesn’t have a dad. You don’t have to buy them a gift every week, you don’t even have to buy their lunch. You just have to make your own sandwich and show up and  invest a little time with them.

So, do you have that special recollection yet? Think for a minute how that made you feel. That time when you were the center of someone’s attention and they just wanted to be with you. You have the opportunity to pass that forward to someone in your neighborhood or apartment complex or community. Somewhere close to you there is a kid who is looking for someone who will spend a little bit of time with them. Go be that person.