Last week, I talked about the role models who inspire us throughout our lives. Sometimes, our connection with a role model transforms into a mentor relationship — and may transform us in the process.
The dictionary defines the word “mentor” as someone who teaches, tutors, coaches. That definition includes people who are formally chosen to mentor a person.
For me, it goes deeper than that. Mentors are often people who see more of what you’re capable of than you can see, and encourage you to become all you can be. You don’t always realize until later that the person has been one of your mentors. It’s quite possible that the mentor doesn’t realize it at the time, either.
All that is certainly true for one of my personal mentors, the woman I want to tell you about today.
I don’t remember exactly when I met my friend, Pat K., but I think I’ve known her for about fifty years. (!) She worked on committees with my mum (although she was much younger than my mum). When I was in my early teens, she was a leader in a girls’ group I belonged to.
More importantly then and now, she was my friend, despite the difference in our ages.
I was shy and lacking in self-confidence when I was growing up. With Pat, I felt valued and accepted. I felt I could relax and be my true self.
When I was very small, I loved drawing. As I made my way through school, I gradually came to feel that I was not good in art. I couldn’t draw as well as some of my classmates. I couldn’t do things exactly the way the teachers wanted.
Pat, an artist in many media, encouraged me to try different things. She introduced me to oil pastels, and modeled a style of art that embraced free expression. It didn’t have to be “right” — it just had to be put on the paper, whatever it was. She taught me to do batik, to quilt, to weave, and to take joy in all forms of creative expression. She brought back to me that love of art that I’d had as a small child.
I was also nervous of new experiences — and yet she challenged me to reach beyond that nervousness, and to move to another province after I’d finished high school, to be a part of a learning community for a while. She didn’t push me to go, she just planted the seed, and told me a bit of the joy she’d found in a similar experience.
Throughout my life, I have felt that same mix of support, encouragement, and challenge from this wise and articulate woman. I have grown in confidence through her gentle mentorship, and I have learned a great deal in many different areas from her example. I am deeply grateful for her friendship and her influence in my life.
You likely have mentors in your life, too. You may also be a mentor to someone else. As I said earlier, we don’t always realize until later that we are either being mentored, or are being a mentor ourselves. When you realize it, it can bring a deep feeling of joy and gratitude.
Monday, October 14th, is Thanksgiving in Canada, where I live. I’d like to encourage all of you — all of us, myself included — to find some way to thank one of our mentors for all they mean to us. I’ll start.
Pat K —