In light of things that I’ve read and witnessed this week, as well as events that are occurring in my far too immediate future, I have something I feel the need to write about- the village. Not the M. Night Shyamalan movie The Village (I actually watched that in school in like 6th grade and I’m not really sure why) but the village that it supposedly takes to raise a child. While the saying in itself is very cliche to me and really not very applicable as I don’t live in a village it still rings incredibly true concerning the roles that other adults should play in a child’s life. I feel like the sayings original intent is more focused on little child/babysitter relationships than the teenager/mentor relationship I’ve come to find so important. However based on this tweet, village babysitters are nice too.
The need for adult mentor’s has been stressed to all 24:7 students, parents, and other volunteers and in all honesty the adults who have poured into me over the years because of this acknowledgement that students need adult role models in their life other than their parents is one of the greatest blessings 24:7 has given me. While parents are an irreplaceable part of many students’ lives, it is known all too well that every teen goes through a stage (of various lengths) where they decide that other people’s parents are way cooler than their own. The incredible irony is that while I may think my parents are weird (which I do in the most loving way possible) someone else will adore my parents because they think they are cooler than their own parents while I may think the exact opposite. It’s a huge cycle, but not necessarily a bad one. Here are some of the things that I think truly make the adult mentors in my life the heroes that they are to me.
They Talk to Me- This is probably the simplest thing and the most difficult thing an adult can try and do with a teenager- talk with them. Admittedly, it can be very awkward at times. Not every adult understands how to communicate in the very diverse and ever changing teen language, and frankly many teens don’t often have the ability/attention span to carry on semi-intelligent conversation with an adult so there are issues on both ends. However, it is a necessary step in any type of relationship, especially a mentorship, to talk with people. People do not open up to and accept advice from people that they don’t have any sort of previous relationship with, and that cannot be gained unless conversation happens. The great thing that I think most adults can and should take advantage of is this: teenagers give brownie points. If an adult comes up and initiates a meaningful conversation (this doesn’t mean serious, just intentional conversation) even if its semi-awkward, I give that individual a certain amount of brownie points because I see that they care enough about me to try to get to know me. If they try and have another intentional conversation with me later than I am already beginning to come around to them and through a process as uncomfortable as this can be at times, lasting relationships can be formed. This is the first substantial step in a mentor relationship.
They Aren’t Perfect- This for me is something I’ve experienced first hand very recently, but I realize has been consistent in all of the adults in my life I trust and ask for guidance from and that is that they aren’t perfect. “Well, duh Jared, Jesus is the only perfect person who has ever lived.” Yes I know, but as dumb as it sounds, adults who are not afraid to share the mistakes they’ve made in hopes that the lessons they have learned will be beneficial to me move from good mentors to great mentors. It’s one thing to simply talk with someone but it’s a whole new level once you begin to talk about your sins. If an adult has the fake appearance that they are perfect and have never made a bad decision or had to go through difficult experiences, then why would I want to take advice from them about something they have no experience with? Sure, you can always break out a Bible passage or poignant movie reference (A good Remember the Titans reference is always appreciated) but those don’t have near as much credibility as a story from someone who made the mistake, dealt with the consequences, and now can look back and see what they should have done instead. I want to take advice from someone who has real life experience and is willing to share it, not someone who wants to pretend mistakes have not been made.
They Are Relentless- This goes two ways in my opinion: they are relentless in their pursuit of a better relationship with God, and they are relentless in their pursuit that I pursue a better relationship with God as well. So many adults in my life have inspired me not by incredibly wise words said to me or good deeds that have been done for me, but by simply living a Godly, spirit-filled life for all to see. This alone is often key in helping me stay on the narrow path. Even more incredible is when these adults see us stumble in our journey and instead of condemning us and hoping we get straightened out, they continue to pull us along. I have not seen a better example of this than what the parents of my senior class have been. D-groups leaders and other parents have been relentless in making sure that we all stayed involved in the church, grow in our faith, and show the love God has shown us to all we come in contact with. They have laughed with us, cried with us, and when we strayed off the path, gave us a good kick in the butt just to say “We love you, but you aren’t living the way you know you should so stop it.” That may sound harsh but what a but what a blessing it has been to have adults genuinely investing in my life on a regular basis. I know that come Senior Sunday if all the adults who have poured into me over the years joined the hug line on the side, the line would probably extend out of the church and down Iron Horse.
Now the flip side of this is for the teenagers who read this and are in, or about to be in, my shoes. When you find adults who have the characteristics I’ve described- they intentionally talk with you, they share their mistakes, and they pursue a greater relationship with God and want you to do the same, then hold onto them. Open up to them and allow them to invest in your lives. Friendshoes. When you find adults who have the characteristics I’ve described- they intentionally talk with you, they share their mistakes, and they pursue a greater relationship with God and want you to do the same, then hold onto them. Open up to them and allow them to invest in your lives. Friends are so important, but significant relationships with adults have really been one the biggest blessings I’ve had to help me along my journey so far.