One of our Lavender Hill mentees, 16-year-old Reveen, recently fell hard into the arms of her mentor. Sheila had been worried about Reveen for some time, though. She hadn’t been able to connect with her in a while and couldn’t seem to track down her whereabouts. The few times she’d seen her it was evident that Reveen was putting on weight, particularly in her stomach… She naturally became suspicious that Reveen was pregnant, but hesitated to bring it up. It seemed that Reveen was determined to avoid the issue, especially in front of her family.
Over the previous months, Reveen had found herself out from under her aunt and dad’s care – either they knew or Reveen was terrified of their impending judgement. Her usual fall-back, another aunt, also fell through as this one already had a baby of her own to take care of and didn’t want another one on her hands. Thus Reveen’s only option was to go and live with her estranged mom – someone she has never even spoken about with Sheila.
When Sheila finally managed to find Reveen, she was compelled to discuss it – it was clear that she was expecting by this time. Sheila simply brought it up gently, promising that she would be there to support her in this new challenge. For the first time ever, Sheila said she saw tears in Reveen’s eyes and a weight lift off her shoulders. She could finally open up and share about her life, and they even laughed together about her cravings!
The experience brought to mind this great article from another mentor’s perspective on why mentoring makes a difference. What struck me most was his phrase to “sit in their mess”. What he advises is essential for the emotional support a mentor can provide for someone. He further explains:
“If you really get to know people, sooner or later you are going to witness a disorientation that they are facing. Mentoring isn’t about fixing someone’s problems or messes, it’s about walking with him or her through the darkness. You are not going to have all the answers, and that’s okay. What you can provide for the [mentee] is solidarity, and sometimes that goes further than the wisdom you might dump on them.”
In this case, Reveen was expecting that Sheila would drop her and see her as a failure. However, being the shining example of a quality LifeXchange mentor that she was, Sheila was fully committed to her promise of walking alongside Reveen for the next two years, through thick or thin.
Sheila readily acknowledges that she hasn’t got all the answers, but she’s going to be there with Reveen on the journey. Since she hasn’t been able to depend on any other adult like this before, it makes a tremendous difference. Sheila reflects that she can’t exactly tell when things shifted, but gradually they’ve developed a special bond. We believe that her willingness to sit in the mess – to not try and fix it – but just by being there, is what will ultimately lead to influence and change Reveen’s life.
by Tammy Mewes