In our busiest week of mentor recruitment I got inspired by the power of example.
Grandma Wallace” is a foster grandparent at Red Arrow School in Hartford, near Kalamazoo, Michigan. She spends five hours, four days a week with the kindergarteners in Mrs Foster’s class. She gets a little stipend from the Office on Aging; it amounts to about $2 per hour. And for that money, Grandma Wallace doesn’t just stretch, befriend, and support the 25 kids. She also uplifts the teacher, administrators and staff with her effort. I could only smile at her vitality and generosity.
The next day I met Kate Zajac who mentors through the Center for Independent Living in Ann Arbor. She was recognized as a “super-mentor” by the Washtenaw Mentoring Collaborative. Her Cerebral Palsy is not cause for self pity but is a source of knowledge and strength she lends to others. She mentors a girl who suffers too from CP, but who also has learning disabilities and recently went blind. Katie made my point better than I could; she said, “We, the mentors, can talk with young people with disabilities about self-advocacy, but it is by demonstrating it that we make the greatest impact on their lives.” And she does demonstrate it. I offered to bring Katie’s super-mentor certificate down to her seat, but she deliberately and proudly worked her walker up and down the metal ramp. Lesson learned. Thank you, Katie.
Tad Wysor started mentoring his little guy, but the boy ran into troubles and was placed in a juvenile support camp 100 miles away. Oh well. No, not oh well. Tad decided he’s just going to drive once a month to the camp to see this fellow, even as Tad adds that he is still not sure the boy yet sees him as a friend. And when the boy’s mother expressed her frustration at not being able to see her son, Tad drove her the 100 miles, then arranged to get her out there once a month, too. It’s through the quiet power of example that Tad’s effort made my challenges as a mentor suddenly feel amazingly insignificant.
The same night I was in Macomb County for their mentoring celebration. I was struck by Brittany. She’s been mentoring one girl for 3 years and about a year and a half ago picked up a second mentee. I wondered how many of the other mentors assembled that night felt the same way I did, as I shook her hand and said, “You rock!” What a wonderful example.
Leaders talk. And when leaders act things change. When leaders roll up their sleeves, put their shoulders to the wheel, answer the phones, pick up the trash, put in the hours, and sweat, people take notice. What do your people see with you? Do you set the pace? Do you roll your walker up the tough ramp and back down even though somebody whose happy to bring your certificate to you? It’s by actions that you
Lead with your best self.