I call the big one Bitey

I think it might be time to stop looking at the news altogether. I tell myself I will miss out if I do, however, the truth is becoming more and more obvious that I won’t be missing out on anything at all. I’m just so tired of the negativity. Are we really so different that we must argue about every single thing on the planet? I haven’t researched it at all but I bet somewhere on the internet is a forum where people are arguing about the correct way to hang toilet paper. It is a very worthwhile discussion that we should all be having.

So, what should a guy like me do when I base many of my decisions on however it was handled when it was an episode of The Simpsons? Do I maybe stage a little rally and make Mr. Burns include a dental plan in our company benefits? No, that doesn’t apply. Do I make up a song about monorails until I find a possum which I name Bitey?

Yeah, that’s what I do. I laugh about it. Life is too short to be mad about everything.  And there is so much outside of our control, we just can’t live in fear of every single thing we see. You know what I really think?

I think Solomon had it all nailed down many, many years ago when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  The only thing I know to do is laugh about it and keep smiling. And maybe avoid the news telling me 9 things that I have to live in fear of tomorrow.

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My Name Is

Before I ever became a parent and later a mentor, I had one name.

Actually, that’s not true. I was the guy who had many names. Most of them were nicknames I attempted to give myself because I thought they were cool.

“Hey Everybody. My new nickname is Legend!” Yep, I was (and still am) that guy.

Okay, so that’s not true either. Because, aside from all the nicknames I gave myself, I also had all the ways that people botched my name: Warren; Wagner; Wanner; Willard; I think you get the idea.

And then I have those completely ruthless friends that would no longer call me by my proper name but instead called me “Wagner” or even shortened it to “Wags”.

Okay, so I had my name and then the multiple butchered variations of my given birth name. And I also had the nicknames I gave myself.

Then some time after I became a parent, I became pretty comfortable with being known as “Delton’s Dad”. I began to respond to things like, “Excuse me, Mr. Delton’s Dad, I need some help in here.”

Of course I would respond to that. It was my name.

Once I started going into local schools and mentoring, I wasn’t “Delton’s Dad”. At that time, he wasn’t even school age. But obviously, I wasn’t a teacher or a coach, so what was I doing there?

That’s when kids began to know me as “Robert Earl’s Mentor” and refer to me as “Mr. Warner”, because I’m just not comfortable with being called Mr. Phelps and I don’t know if I ever will be.

In one of the books I had to read for a class, they talked about all the different roles you fill in life. I’d mention the book by name if I could remember which one it was and I am really not sure if I am combining ideas from multiple books. Anyway, if the idea is new to you, I thought it up all by myself.

Some of the names I’ve earned in life are far better than others. Dad is obviously my favorite. But all the friends I’ve made along the way who remember me as “Mentor” hold a pretty special place in my heart.

Wherever you are, there is a kid out there looking to learn your name and wanting to tell you theirs and be your friend. They’re looking for someone to become a part of their life. It’s actually pretty easy, all you have to do is walk up to them and say, “Hi. My Name is _____________”

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.

Does Mentoring Matter?

You can make a difference in lives, young and old, simply by investing in the lives of others around you already.

Charles Clark, a janitor at Euless Trinity High School, is regularly named one of the most influential people at the high school by graduating students.

How could that be, Warner? He’s just a janitor. Doesn’t he just mop, mop, mop all day long? While possibly singing a song?

It’s because he long ago decided that he would do something besides look straight past all the kids in his high school that clearly needed a role model to look up to.

So, he started paying attention to them. And doing what he could where he was. That’s all. They ceased to be invisible and he began to make a difference in their lives.

We often get caught up in doing big huge things when the truth is that if we just do something small each day for the people who are around us, we can eventually make a difference in their lives. No matter what you do, you can make a difference for someone. Everyone can do something great, even the janitor at the local high school.

Tell Me Your Story

It’s the question we all lead with: “So, what do you do?” Which is just our passive way of asking, “What’s your story?” Because we couldn’t possibly just lead with that. Nope, much too intimidating. Because for one thing, it’s too dangerous. Dangerous because we could end up getting a 45 minute story that we do not want nor ask for, don’t have time for, and can’t figure how to get out of without pulling a walkoff.

After all, you just never know when you’ll run into one. One of them. The incredibly detailed and intricate story people. They’re Everywhere! Those beautiful souls who have a special story about everything. And they blend in so well with society. God bless them all, they really do think you want to hear about their ongoing battle with the jerks at the credit card company.

But it’s also dangerous because we as the story giver need to be sure that you’re worthy of our story. If I’m going to make myself vulnerable and tell you details that not everyone knows about me, you need to earn that. Unless of course, I’m aforementioned super detailed story guy in which case I have no problem at all telling you about the time I worked as a busboy at this place called The Peach Pit in LA. No, wait, that’s 90210.

I think stories are fascinating to us for a couple of reasons. First of all, everyone has one. And knowing yours helps me be connected to you. If you played on the best 2-8 football team in all the land in high school, then, hey, you’re like me!

And furthermore, when we know someone’s story, we see them. We finally see them for who they really are. They cease to be a nameless face and are now somebody.  When we know their story, we can better understand the way they think. We can empathize and even be compassionate towards them. We can understand why they need our mercy. And we willingly give it because we know them.

When you commit to a mentoring relationship of any kind, you are saying to that person: “I see you and I believe in you.” Every community has a story, every school has one too. And each kid in each school is a story waiting to be told. They’re out there waiting for you to be part of their story.