The Mentor

It's Lent!  Notice the ashes?  Please, you can see them from space.

It’s Lent! Notice the ashes? Please, you can see them from space.

It’s the First Sunday of Lent. For those of you not familiar with the custom long alive in many parts of the Catholic world, this means that we give ourselves a little break from whatever things we’ve given up for Lent. Since we are under absolutely no obligation to give anything up, the respite is also entirely up to the individual. This morning the kids were exceptionally good at Sunday mass so we took them for donuts afterwards. I’m glad they were good because I was certainly good and I was going to get myself a donut either way. It would have been slightly sad to have to come out of the store with just one. I have no way of tying in my opening verse with the prompt so I’ll just jump into it. Tonight we are asked:

Have you ever had a mentor? What was the greatest lesson you learned from him or her?

Really?  You write stories just for me?!

Really? You write stories just for me?!

It just so happens that as I was writing this story my son came out of the bedroom where he had been (I thought) drifting off to a Veggietales program. We all have the day off tomorrow so we were letting him watch some TV before bed tonight. He started telling all about the show he was watching. First, I took him out of the family room where my wife was watching some British period drama — something about an Abbey. I wanted her to enjoy her show in peace and he wanted something to eat. While making his pizza rolls (he asked for them) we had a fun conversation. I realized that it had just become apparent to him that Mommy and Daddy actually do things after he and his sister go to bed. “Son,” I said, “Daddy uses the time after you’ve gone to bed to write stories.” He looked very puzzled and replied “You write stories? What kind of stories, Daddy?” “Well, son,” I said back to him, “Daddy writes a story every night about what we did that day so that one day, when you’re a big boy, you can read about all the fun we had.” I neglected to tell him that he’d have to sift through many nonsensical rants and bouts of mental instability to get to a few lines about “went to the playground and had fun”. My boy looked back at me after a moment of silence. “Daddy? You write stories for me? That’s really nice of you!” OK, that made my life; and yet I’m still no closer to figuring out this whole prompt thing.

The reality is that I have benefitted from many wonderful teachers. A teacher is kind of mentor. And so, I think of people like Fr Tom Guarino and Joel Friedman. Guarino was my teacher in seminary. A better teacher I never had. He exemplified kindness, intelligence, and humor. Friedman was a professor of music history when I was in college. I took enough electives to qualify for a minor and all because of one class I took with Joel. What an amazing teacher. Both of these men taught me from an academic standpoint. But more than that, both men mentored me. They (and I) couldn’t have known it at the time but I was going to become a teacher myself and every day I stand before a classroom full of students I think of them. They showed me what I admire in teachers and, by example, how I wanted to teach.

I also think of people I’ve never met who have shown me so many things that have shaped me. I think of St. Rita of Cascia, the fifteenth century Augustinian nun. She is known as the Peacemaker. That’s really all you need to know. This quiet woman came to understand that peace of soul and peace of mind come from God and not from some transient, earthly desire. She converted her assassin husband, saved her sons’ souls, and healed countless people from their illnesses and still found time to contemplate, in a profound way, the suffering of Christ. She is one of my favorite people ever to walk the earth.

So, son, when you read these stories one day perhaps you might look back and think that your old man was a mentor of sorts. But I’d be happy to know that you just thought of me as your dad.

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