“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
This morning I was invited to attend the annual meeting of our local chapter of the Big Brothers and Sisters/ committed partners for youth groups. There were over 500 people there supporting the mentoring projects that for some kids make a life/death difference in their lives. The family life you are born into is one of the most powerful and predictive influences in a child’s life. Having carried the burden of my own dysfunctional family for years as a key identifier of my own perceived weakness and neediness, I recognized the stories that were recounted today.
Stories of neglect and abandonment that are passed down from trouble adults to their children often turn into repeating cycles of destruction. Kids struggling not just with their grades but just to attend school are given another chance with a mentor who commits to seeing the best in that youth, consistently and long enough for the child to see it in themselves. This is love in action, and is as close as we get to miracles in our days, to watch a child transformed under the attentive gaze and loving attention of another person who is committed to them.
One of my most lasting memories as a lost and troubled girl came from my mentor and counselor telling me that “it didn’t matter if it was a parent or an aunt or someone totally unrelated to you that loved you. Love goes into you all the same.” I know this is true and was reminded of it today as the leaders of the organization asked the question “who mentored you?” It is such a basic truth, this power of love that travels far beyond the bonds of blood family, connecting all of us in community.
The idea that it takes a village to raise a child could be rephrased, because it actually takes the whole village to raise itself. The mentor and the child are both rewarded equally. Being given the chance to love another is on par with the opportunity to open to be loved. They both take equal courage and willingness, which is the beauty of the mentoring relationship. Like meditation, the commitment to reach beyond your comfort zone and volunteer is easy to put off. Yet doing the work that enriches you actually gives you more real time, the kind that is fully alive.
Although numbers by themselves is rarely a compelling story, to understand that the same $50,000 will pay to incarcerate one child for a year or support 25 kids to have mentoring opportunity and the chance of breaking a cycle of destruction they were born into, is mind boggling. The success stories are backed up by hard data that consistently demonstrate how having someone to lean on and authentically cares, changes lives.
Here is the power of love in action… A more positive affirmation of what this life is about is hard to come by.