Are you a busy person?
Let me guess, you are. We’re all SO busy these days, and we wear our busyness like a badge of honor. Our standard response to, “Hey, how are you?” is, “Ugh, I’m SO busy. Let me tell you all the things that are keeping me so busy.” Blah, blah, blah. I find myself responding to people like this all the time, despite the fact that it drives me crazy! But one truth I’ve learned in recent years and am continuing to grow in, is this: you’re never too busy to give back and make an impact on someone else’s life. Even if you travel for work, have two kids and a gorgeous, pregnant wife you need to spend time doting on each week, you’ve got the time, trust me.
So what does giving back look like?
I believe one of the greatest needs in the world today is good mentorship. Mentorship takes place in a relationship when a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. Simply put, a mentor is someone who can say to their mentee, “Hey, I’ve been there.” Good mentorship is something we all need, whether we’re aware of it or not, and is an easy way to give back to our community. I’ve valued mentorship my whole life, but it wasn’t until I became a dad that my perspective was challenged and shaped into what it is today.
Cue the kiddos.
In 2014, my dreams came true; I became a dad. Four years later, my stunning wife, Daphne, and I are beyond blessed to have three handsome, little boys – two out of the womb and one joining us in September. Needless to say, life started moving faster than I thought possible, and the chaos of parenthood quickly dominated any free time I once had to give back to others. Or so I thought… I really was SO busy now!! (All the parents say, “Amen!”)
Well, I thought wrong. Giving back just looks a little different with kids, as does mentorship. I believe the need and call is still there, along with the time, energy and opportunities. All you have to do is look for them, and be creative if you need to!
Before I had kids, giving back and mentoring were things I did outside of my home. But as soon as kids entered the picture, that changed. My focus shifted to giving back inside the home more – to my wife, to the layers of new responsibility required to keep little humans alive! It shifted to mentorship inside the home – to my sons. And, if I’m honest, I struggled to reconcile this new, inward focus with my belief that we are called to pour out our lives for others and love our neighbors as ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there’s no higher calling than to father a child and teach him up in the way he should go, but I missed giving back and mentoring in the “outside” world! And I felt like I was using my family as an excuse for my lack of involvement in my neighbors’ lives.
So, at the beginning of this year, I made a commitment to actively get back involved in my community here in Raleigh. A huge shout out to Neighbor to Neighbor, a nonprofit in Southeast Raleigh focused on building communities of hope, justice and compassion, for blessing me with the opportunity to do so!
I signed up to be a reading mentor to an 8-year-old boy named Uriel. Uriel’s the man! We spend an hour each week together talking, reading, spelling, goofing off, laughing, and working on vocabulary. Even though I’m the one technically “giving,” I inevitably leave our time together each week feeling I’ve been given the most. Funny how that works, huh? Truly, we are more blessed when we give than when we receive. But the most amazing part about my new relationship with Uriel is that my oldest son, Declan, has also gotten to be part of this relationship! He now comes with me every week to spend time with Uriel and gets to witness the power of mentorship in action. Well done is certainly better than well said!
So, are you really too busy?
Or can you give back and start mentoring someone younger than you?
Here’s my commission: we all need people in our lives to push and encourage us, to walk alongside us, to lean on when times get tough, and to say to us, “Hey, I’ve been there. This isn’t the end. I believe in you.” This world ain’t no joke, and so many of today’s youth are unequipped to handle its challenges well. Volunteering to come alongside them and tackle life’s challenges together, can make a HUGE difference. You have the power to literally change lives. Don’t wait any longer. Stop with the excuses, and start giving back. Start mentoring. We need you! Trust me, it’s worth it.
– Wells Thompson, former “Angel” and continued nonprofit enthusiast