You know, experience is a funny thing. When I was young, I hardly had time for seeking those with experience – except for one thing: I loved my grandma (“Grum”) fiercely, and listened to her – in fact, I still do.
Now, although I may not always have followed through on her bits of wisdom and advice or home remedies (anyone else told to grease their feet with Vick’s and wear socks at night, along with a sock around one’s neck, which was also lubed up with Vick’s when they were sick?), I did hear her. I was fortunate enough to have grown up with Grum throughout most of my wonder years.
Aside: don’t you just know she was so grateful to relive the tween and teen years?! Bless her heart. She moved in with my mom and me right after 6th grade and lived in our same state until I was in my early 20s.
Daily life with Grum included stories
- Stories about my mom and her brothers growing up on a farm.
- Stories about the Great Depression and FDR’s presidency and WWII.
- Stories about being married at age 18.
- Stories about childbirth in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Note: I’m glad I was born in 1969.
- Stories about her mother and father and their divorce and how she lived with her aunt.
- Stories about abandonment by her mom.
- Stories about school and teachers and friends and frenemies and teachers. Here’s one which makes me laugh and cringe: She and her best friend, Lois, would walk down the hall of the school, and evidently a teacher came from behind them and said they spelled “OX” down the hall because Grum was so bow-legged and Lois so knock-kneed. Can you imagine?!
- Stories about belted pads and periods and using (unused) pads to curl her hair.
Daily life also included lessons
- “Let Gramma show you how to bone a chicken.” “I only like chicken breasts, Grum, and you can buy those separately.” “Well, that’s just silly.”
- “We need to get you some new bras; you about gave yourself a black eye, coming down the stairs this morning.”
- (After we put our dog down) “Grum, what’s it like to lose a person? I can’t imagine feeling any worse than I do right now.” (Through tears) “Well, it’s about the same, honey. It’s just deeper and longer, but the loss feels very similar.”
- Midwest descriptive phraseology: “crooked as a dog’s hind leg”, “half a bubble off”, “you bet”, etc.
And commands, such as, “Run and get my cigarettes, would you? Your legs are younger than mine.”
I would have missed out on so much secondhand smoke rich knowledge and experience had I not been partially raised with Grum. Living with her ignited a love for older people, and a thirst for the stories only they could share. But it also awakened in me a focus on both providing and receiving mentorship. This mentorship could be as informal and organic as a friendship with someone or as purposeful as a support group or life group focused upon sharing similar experiences. In fact, mentorship is Biblical, as older men and women are exhorted to teach younger men and women.
We can even receive mentorship from those of us in peer relationships or from those who are younger than us. For example, Timothy encouraged young people to be bold in sharing truth; not worrying about being shut down by the older generations.
So, I’ve shared the experience of having a much older mentor, but I have so many more…
- I have a mentor who is a dear, dear friend; only five years my senior, but she has walked me through every employment and child-rearing step of my life.
- I was able to mentor a dear friend through the loss of her mom, since I had recently lost mine.
- I have several mentors, dear friends all, who keep me spiritually accountable. So grateful!
- I have mentored several young men and women in a life group. The group itself is probably dying out because of several reasons, but the relationships remain. Being in your late teens and early 20s is soooo hard. Aside: I am tired of all the excrement heaped upon millennials. Um…if there’s a problem, the GenXers and older can only point to themselves. Millennials are just figuring out their lives in a tough, complex world. I cannot imagine facing all the technology and complicated decisions with which they cope. And also? It must be a rite of passage for older generations to shame younger ones. This is unfortunate, because we have so much to learn from one another. I exhort you to give the young adults in your life grace and lots of love. They need it.
Yeah, so mentorship runs all ways: up-down, side-side, and in many different aspects of life. Most of my friends are mentors to me in one way or another. I think it’s so important that we seek and give mentorship – to share our experiences so that others might be either spared the same difficulty we have faced, or at least so they know that they aren’t alone in their experiences. Depression and anxiety are so prevalent in the American culture, and among American Christians. Why? Well, I think partially because we feel so damn a.l.o.n.e.. Our lives will include trouble, missteps, and tragedy. It’s so valuable to know we aren’t alone.
Jesus suffered, and we know that He understands our hurts and will one day redeem them. For now, we sit in the not yet of redemption. However, I also happen to think that God DOES redeem our sorrow at least partially in this world as we share our stories with one another. “Oh, you lost your mom early? I did too. How did your mom die?” “Oh, you were a teen mom? What was that like for you?” “How did you decide on this career path?” If only we take the brave step of reaching out for help when we need it and offering the life ring of experience to one who is flailing, we will be doing the holy work of loving well. We will suffer, whether at our own hand of dumb decision-making, or at the hand of another’s, because the world is broken, so bad things happen. But this world is beautiful, too, because God gives us each other to lean on.
Food for thought: What experiences have you faced which would be helpful to share with another? Can you think of a time in your life when you wish you would’ve had a mentor?
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
~Proverbs 27:17 NLT