Rabbit Trails: Like seasons, beloved mentors come and go
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Oct 27, 2013 | 720 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Whenever I hear “To Sir With Love” I get a little verklempt.

Just a little.

It is all in the lyrics.

The music is a sweet accompaniment for a walk down Memory Lane.

My dad always comes to mind first. This is most likely because I tend to call him Sir (often said in playful sass). And, like my mum, he has done his best to build me up in hopes I follow the straight and narrow.

They were my first, and thankfully most consistent, mentors.

“But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy, but I’ll try.”

There is no set mold for mentors — at least, not in my life.

They have come in the form of friends, family members, teachers, teammates, co-workers and passing acquaintances stopping by just long enough to deter disaster.

Their ages vary along with everything else about them. Personalities, facial features, histories and methods are all their own. The only consistent aspect is how they have impacted my life.

And the fact that most do not realize the esteem I hold them in to this day.

“If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start, but I would rather you let me give my heart, To Sir, With Love.”

When I was a freshman in high school I had a friend (who we will call Jane) who had anger issues. To this day, I still find her behavior understandable, if not acceptable. Her family life was not ideal. Plus, who among us knows how to properly handle the heated emotions and hormones of the teenage years? 

She was a bit of a bully and I was a bit of a pushover.

(Or, as I liked to think of it, I was a “peacekeeper.”)

Many aspects of ninth grade were the same: mom jeans, unfortunate hair choices (picture thick, 1970s era bangs), bookworm tendencies and a stuttering self-esteem. However, two aspects of my life were different: sports and a new friendship. Sports allowed me to gain confidence in myself and Rissa encouraged me to use my voice.

She came into my life as I was struggling to figure out how to handle Jane.

“Delaney,” Rissa would say with exasperation. “You shouldn’t let her treat you like that.”

I’ve always been OK with standing up for others, but fighting for yourself takes a different type of strength. First, you have to believe the other person (or situation) is wrong. Second, you need to believe you’re worth the fight.

At first, I didn’t fight all of my battles on my own.

“Hey, leave her alone,” Rissa would say to an intolerant Jane who was not in favor of the turning tables. “If you are going to act like that, then go away.”

Eventually Rissa’s reminders stuck. And in truth, they are what I remember whenever I find myself facing a bully. She was my friend with her own problems and battles, but she also served as a mentor.

“Those schoolgirl days, of telling tales and biting nails are gone. But in my mind, I know they will still live on and on.”

I believe being intentional about speaking into another’s life is one of the most powerful interactions humans can share.

Mentors see the potential others cannot see in themselves. Whether this potential is for good or bad, funny or serious, writing or singing is beside the point. By their words and actions they help others see their worth.

Maybe it is by accident, or maybe it is by design.

Maybe the mentor is willing, or maybe they feel there is no other option.

The effects may not even be immediately noticed. It may take days, months or years before the mentee realizes what has happened. Although, there will come a day when they will recognize the time, wisdom and talent spent on them.

“A friend who taught me right from wrong, And weak from strong, That’s a lot to learn, what, What can I give you in return?”

Fall is just beginning here in Bible Belt, U.S.A., but a personal season is coming to a close. A dear mentor is leaving after two years of attempts to get me in shape. He has put up with my whining, workplace faux pas and incessant questions.

My first months as a journalist would have been immensely more difficult without him in my corner.

So to this person I would like to extend my thanks. I thank you not only for the guidance you have given me, but for the advice you have offered all of us young’uns. It was much needed, and has been a kindness I will not soon forget.

“If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters, That would soar a thousand feet high, To Sir, with Love.”

As with most people in life, mentors come and go. I’ve said hello and goodbye to quite a few since my ninth-grade year. Some are made to accompany you throughout a lifetime, while others are only here for a season. Their names change, but the intentional regard expressed to others remains the same.