The Way I See It: Everyone needs a good mentor

Michele Blais remembers the many mentors who helped her sons when they were youngsters

An article on mentorship in the October 2014 issue of Esquire magazine really caught my eye. One because I am a big believer in the incredible value of mentors in our lives and the other for the concern the magazine was expressing for boys and young men and their need for positive role models and mentors in their lives.

Why am I reading Esquire? Because it was lying on my son’s coffee table during a recent visit.

A mentor is a guide, coach, instructor, teacher, friend, leader. I often think of those who oversee apprentices, supervisors who go beyond their job descriptions or perhaps it is following through in the true intention of the description. A mentor may be working alongside: coaching, playing, supervising, walking beside us  and positive time spent together is time well-spent.

The magazine devoted this issue to articles on the Boy Scouts of America; organizations in the States that support mentorship; articles on people who discuss their mentors — both males and females who had great influence; another a series of quotes on how to build a man; and a story of one man and his mentors, who are the kids he hangs out with.

For 10 years our household was led by me raising two boys. Mentors were then and continue to be important for my sons. There were many people who had a positive influence on the lads: Norm teaching my oldest to ski; Jason the boys to ride bicycles; Patrick Nicol with his many afternoons swimming, playing soccer or pool, or just in conversation hanging out.  These are simple examples and more were there as coaches, teachers, parents of their friends who had great influence. So much so that one of my lads as a young fellow wanted me to find him a new dad just like Bryan.

They continue to benefit from mentors now that they are adults, with coaches and with my oldest with a mentor in production of a television show. The willingness to bring a young person alongside, to invest time and energy in helping them develop their skills and capabilities, not only in the sport or business but as a person, is priceless.

Adults can have meaningful roles in our kids’ lives and in each other’s lives. I had some great mentors in my life with teachers, bosses on my first job in the social services field and another with that same job who taught me not to be so outspoken, and to listen more. I was 23 and would get on my high horse of social justice and assume I had all the answers; he taught me to listen to others and to work in partnership with people outside my regular circle. It was a huge gift for me. I wasn’t inspiring collaboration, it was fear of my blasting someone. I wasn’t taken seriously until he helped me to see that the most powerful position was at the table where the decisions were made, not out in the hallway marching.

Anne McKeeking, the Vernon Woman of the Year, is a great example of a mentor. She has mentored parents, child care providers, members of the ECE community and other community colleagues and made meaningful contributions to them.

Here are some quotes from the article in Esquire on how to build a man, which I think can apply to how to build a woman: “We want them to understand the weight that a simple word of kindness or encouragement can carry in another person’s life. To appreciate the value of talking to strangers. To ask for advice, even if they don’t think they need it. To say ‘I don’t know’ when they don’t know. We want them to keep their balance. We want them to be pioneering. We want them to know that love doesn’t conquer all but it conquers a lot. The point is in the end, we want them to be good. Useful and good. To be a little better than they were. A little worse than they’ll be. To watch. To listen. To try. To learn. To pass it all along.”

To pass it all along, the way I see it we can all do that.

Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.