In my 9 to 5, I work with mentors who connect with kids in the schools in our community. For nearly a year now, our program has to face something we never anticipated would happen: closed schools. When your program is focused on getting caring adults into schools to connect with kids – and the school schedule gets thrown off, for 10 1/2 months, and counting – well, then, things are going to change. And you’re going to learn a thing or two in the process.
Recently, I took stock of some of those lessons. All of these apply to mentors who are used to getting into school and meeting with students in-person, in a pre-covid world. Our mentors have had to adjust, essentially overnight. But these lessons aren’t just for our mentors; I think they likely apply to all of us, as well. Read them and maybe one or two will speak to you in this strange season we’re in:
- Flexibility & patience are key. Many of our mentors have had to settle for connecting with their kids through video meetings. Virtual gatherings aren’t the same; we all know that, now more than ever. But this past year, we’ve learned: We do what we can, when we can. Question: Where in your life are you grumbling about what used to be – instead of receiving, and making the most of, what is?
- Our kids need us, so we take whatever options we have. If it’s virtual, or writing notes, or occasional gatherings, we encourage our mentors to do their best to be there for their mentees, in whatever format the school allows. Meanwhile, if they have a student who isn’t showing up for virtual meetings, we want the mentor to keep pursuing them – while at the same time, not letting that cloud their opportunity to connect with who is there. Question: Who is there that “keeps showing up” in your life, despite the challenges of covid? How can you be there for them? Is there someone, because of the challenges & changes of this covid season, who you are able to more directly influence and encourage?
- With that in mind: Go with smaller & simpler goals. Our kids may need someone to simply encourage them to get online for their classes. Or maybe it’s just getting up in the morning. Perhaps they just need a safe place to share their anxiety and sadness, or their small joys and accomplishments. I’ve reminded our mentors: small victories are still victories! Question: What small opportunity are you overlooking? (Maybe it’s going old school, as some of our mentors have had to do, and picking up a pen and writing a note or a letter. I recently listened to a podcast interview that considered the simple joys and opportunities that come when we sit down and write letters – and mail them!).
- Remember that Covid affects everyone. It may affect our mentors differently than our mentees. In fact, I’m sure it does. We want our mentors to be sensitive to the ways kids are processing the reality & the impact of covid, even if it’s different than what they are going through. The same is true for all of us. Question: Is there someone who sees covid – and its challenges – differently than you do? How can you show them grace, and give them space to share what they are experiencing?
- Finally, I told our mentors: Remember (and remind your mentees): This, too, will end. So, even if they don’t get much “accomplished” with their mentees this school year, there’s next year! And think how powerful it will be for their mentees to have their mentors be there for them whenever the school completely opens back up. Their tenacity and commitment to them won’t go unnoticed. Question: Where do you need to show tenacity during this season? What commitments may have eased up that you need to be ready to pick back up?
All of this is by way of reminder: wherever you are in this season – continue to grow in patience. Remember how the King James translates patience? With the word longsuffering. What a great reminder that patience isn’t needed when things happen on our timetable. That’s why it’s not called shortsuffering – because we need it for the long haul. And as people of faith, we are in it for the long haul.