“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled
by a spark from another person. Each of us has
cause to think with deep gratitude of those who
have lighted the flame within us.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
There are people in this world who have greatness inside of them. Many of these people are unaware of their potential. Most go through life believing they could never change the world. Everyone at some point feels insignificant. We feel uninspired. We lose our passion. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for every time that I have felt insignificant, uninspired, or lost my way because it was in those times I received what I needed most…a mentor.
We tend to think of mentors in terms of relationships that last over a length of time. However, sometimes, mentors can be younger or older than us. They can be students or teachers. They can be employees or employers. They can be a part of our lives for an extended period of time or just a brief fleeting moment. Mentors are individuals who provide us with advice, encouragement, or timely constructive criticism. Sometimes they just provide us with a much needed “a-ha” moment. Most of all, mentors inspire us through their words or actions and challenge us to be better people.
There are three types of mentors we will encounter throughout our lives and if we are not careful, we can miss their impact.
- The Stranger: We do not often categorize strangers as mentors, but we should. How many times have we been out walking on the streets and seen a teenager stop and pick something up for a grandmother out for her afternoon walk? Or how about the simple act of paying for someone else’s coffee, just to brighten their day. These people are mentoring through their actions. They provide a reminder that kindness is in all of us. It is our choice to demonstrate that kindness to others.
- The Acquaintance: We have impromptu interactions every day. They may be with the girl in the coffee shop or the waiter at your favorite restaurant. We take time to know their names, share a few trivial comments about our lives and continue on with our day. While we may not know much about their personal lives, sometimes their words have the ability to brighten our day or put our challenges in perspective. These individuals may not be in our lives for an extended period of time, but we learn from their words.
- The Friend: These are the cherished of all mentors. Few people are lucky enough to experience a mentor that loves you through your flaws, demonstrates patience when you’re unbearable, and stands beside you when life gains the upper hand. These individuals share their experience and wisdom over the years and selflessly encourage you to be the best possible version of yourself. They are honest and consistent. We can learn from their life.
Education evokes various meanings within each of us. Most of us hear the word education and think colleges, professors, and textbooks, but some of the best education I ever received was through mentors that I have been blessed to have in my life. Some are still mentors for me today, others I briefly passed on the street, and a few we engaged in short conversations, but all gave me the encouragement, inspiration, and, yes, even criticism I need to be who I am today. It’s not easy to be better than we were before, but sometimes the reward is in the attempt.
So before we carve up the turkey, whip the mashed potatoes, and pass the pumpkin pie, take a few minutes to reflect on those mentors who shared their actions, words, and experience so that we could all be a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, your families, friends, and mentors!