Start Small

When I was in grade school, I had a babysitter that went to junior high who brought over her history textbook, presumably to do homework after I went to bed. But you and I both know the truth: She brought the book because her parents made her and then watched tv while eating all the good snacks after I was asleep.

I remember looking at that big book and thinking to myself, “I’ll never be smart enough to read books like that.”  Of course you don’t get from a grade school education to reading history textbooks overnight, you take it one step at a time. And a few years later, I turned into that same snack stealing babysitter who was assigned a big 900 page textbook that I never read. And just look at me now; an adult who mostly wants to read Calvin & Hobbes or Pearls before Swine above anything else. But that’s neither really here nor there, is it?

When I helped organize a group of people that would eventually adopt a school in 2013, all the school staff wanted was consistent classroom readers. They lamented the passing of  yet another year without readers for each of their classrooms. Fast forward a couple of years and we now do much more than simply read in classrooms. But we couldn’t be there without that small start.

I’m awfully good at running around in circles without ever making a coherent point, so here it is: Take it easy. If mentoring a student on an individual basis is intimidating to you, then don’t worry about it. Just pick your favorite book from growing up and find a group of kids to read to. Later this summer, when school starts back up, find a school near your home or work and ask if you can read to a classroom. You may find the spark to get more involved like I did and end up, as one trusted friend pointed out, “turn this into a small empire.”

But even if you only ever show up the one time and read to a classroom of kids, you have still done something great by making that first small step. You have left an indelible mark on a child’s life and affected lives positively in your community. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Advertisements

BLT

Today  will stick with me for a long time. For over a year now, I’ve brought lunch to an elementary school and hung out with the same kid. I won’t use his real name so let’s just go with Cletus since I have always wanted to have a friend named Cletus.

Cletus is smart. He is funny and I really like hanging out with him. Two days ago, I attempted to connect with him and he wasn’t at school. I was disappointed but I was also at the point of giving up. I even told his assistant principal, the program coordinator, those words almost exactly

“I’m just not reaching him.”

I really didn’t think I was doing any good. I was counting down the days until the end of this school year so  I could tell myself I didn’t quit on him.

Today was different because Cletus finally opened up to me and showed he trusted me. He wanted to confide things in me which were bothering him. He welled up in tears at some things in his life, and I did too.

Until today, I took for granted the work I was doing which established an important foundation with Cletus.

And I’m the moron here because it was something I have known all along. I finally gave Cletus a BLT. He believed, liked and trusted me.

In some sales training classes, they teach you about the BLT. You can’t establish rapport with a client without it. You can’t close a sale without rapport and you’re just wasting your time. A key part of the sales process is that the prospect has to believe, like and trust you. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.

I can’t believe I looked right past how important believing, liking and trusting your mentor is in the mentoring process. Of course, I understood this academically. However, today it was a lesson I won’t forget (I hope).

I share this because I hope it encourages someone. I wish that I could say mentoring is fun and awesome all the time. The truth is sometimes it is not. It is frustrating and exhausting and you just want to quit. But you can’t. You have to get back up and be consistent and show up.

If all of this sounds a lot like love, that is by design. It’s because I believe all of this falls under the umbrella of love. And my good friend Robert Earl Keen once said it best,

“Flesh and blood it turns to dust and scatters in the wind,

Love is all that matters in the end.”

Celebrity Status

I gave you two introspective posts (TWO!) that were about as unselfish as I know how to be. I’m sure a year from now I will look back at my writings of yesterday and Tuesday and say, “OH MY CHICKEN TASTES SO TERRIBLE I CAN NOT BELIEVE I PUBLISHED THAT.” *

So, since I’ve been generous for 2 days, I’ve pretty much earned the right to be selfish. Earned it, guys! So, here is a selfish disclosure: I wish I were a Rock Star. And not like the drunk out of my mind can’t function rock star. I just want to be the sleep until mid morning, then lay around until I’m too hungry to be lazy in bed anymore, wear whatever I want all day and then go out later that evening, and make $500,000 for playing guitar and singing songs about how cool I was in high school Rock Star. I’d mix in a workout and hot shower in there somewhere, but probably not every day.

So here is the disappointing part of the story: I can play zero instruments. I really can’t sing that great either. I can sing loud though, so that’s a bonus. Also, I’m 37 and I’m not really in love with the whole being broke for a long time before you ever make any money part of being a rock star. So, anyway, I’ve given up on that dream which was completely never going to happen.

There’s a point to this, so just stick around. Monday is Read Across America day and I will go to a local elementary school and read some books to different elementary school age kids and hang out. It will be the best anti-depressant that you can’t buy. For a few brief moments, I will be the most popular kid in school. Kids will push and shove just to get close enough to touch me. Flashes will go off as the paparazzi takes pictures of the celebrity reader who came to visit a class full of first graders. For a couple of hours, I will be a rock star . (You can be one too!)

Then for lunch one day next week, I’ll go back to the school and sit with a 4th grader and hang out during their lunch. We’ll play games. (If you’re a little rusty on how the games work, don’t worry, the rules are very flexible and you can never win. It’s totally rigged.)  No one asks me about business or current events and no one cares about politics. We talk about cool stuff like dirt bikes and basketball and lie about huge fish we have caught and then talk about the biggest holes we have ever dug.

It’s all the fun stuff that I want to do and talk about. There is no serious adult business going on whatsoever. For a couple of hours every week, I don’t have to be an adult. I can pretend that I’m a carefree Rock Star who is popular wherever he goes and doesn’t have to be back at the office for a 1:30 meeting or spend the afternoon preparing for an important appointment, or any other boring adult responsibilities that we all have and are no fun whatsoever.

Underneath it all, I’m really just a big selfish jerk. And every time I walk out of the school, it reminds me that none of the important tasks of the day are really so important. And if a jerk like me can spread a little kindness and maybe make the world a better place, then anyone can. And that’s not a bad deal at all.

Thanks for reading,

WP

____________________________________________________

*Don’t even bother attempting to find anything from any of the previous blogs I’ve ever written. I’ve put it all on lockdown where only I know how to find it. (P.S. – Don’t try to impress me with your ability to find stuff, internet jerks. I’m sure someone somewhere has an archived copy of my terrible myopic, navel-gazing words, and when I become a millionaire rock star I will pay you handsomely to please please please destroy it all.)

**I have no idea if circular paradox is a thing at all but it sounded smart when I said it aloud

A Friendly Ruckus

Today is February 24, 2015. Ruckusmaker Day. In 2014, I had a goal of writing 750 words per week, and publishing it. The roadblock for me was that I always felt like I didn’t have anything to say. So, I compromised and counted the many thousands words I concocted in emails as part of my weekly quota. It’s important to have goals, you know. And it’s important to keep them a moving target so that you can feel accomplished.

Today, on Ruckusmaker Day, I finally feel like I do have something to say:

Everyone needs a mentor

For several years now, I’ve been involved with mentoring programs. And what I have discovered is that everyone could use a mentor. The problem is that “mentoring” is such an intimidating and misunderstood term. What is mentoring? What does it look like? What do mentors do?

The answer to those questions is actually pretty simple. Mentors are your friend. And by friend, I don’t mean that buddy that you call up to go out drinking with on Friday night or laugh about the stupid decisions you have mutually made. (Nothing against that at all by the way. I’m the proud owner of thousands of stupid decisions, many of which are hilarious)

I mean a true friend. Someone who challenges you to be a better person, someone who holds you accountable to your own goals*, someone who checks in on you occasionally and knows you well enough to understand whether you really are fine or whether you’re just saying that you are and don’t want to talk about it. But then later circles back to that very issue and helps you talk through it. Everyone needs one of those in their lives.

And friendship, or mentoring, like that looks a lot like life. It can be a casual weekly meal together or a cup of coffee wherever there is a place to sit down, or even lean against a wall. It can take many forms, any of which add up to one thing: Time. Time spent together as friends. Time invested in your life as a friend and mentor. Time spent building the kind of relationship that benefits both of you.

It is my belief that society has a very deep need for these kind of healthy relationships. It is estimated that over 24 million children in America live without their father. (source: link)  How can we expect someone to be successful in life when they spend the bulk of their adolescence wondering why Daddy doesn’t love them?

So, as it turns out, I really do have something to say. In fact, I have a lot to say. My hope is that I can help people see the value of pouring into others’ lives through mentoring and just being a good friend. I hope to encourage you to do just that and provide resources and ideas for ways to make that happen. Your community needs you.

Thanks for reading,

WP

*Goals related to writing and publishing that writing are exempt from any accountability.