There's More to Life Than Knitting!

Join Suna as she stops knitting long enough to ponder her life, share her joys and concerns, and comment on the goings on in the world.
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Friday, March 13, 2009

Food for Thought #9: Mentoring

Lee says: Everyone is a mentor, and everyone has at least one mentor who has helped defined the guiding principles of their lives. (Ignore the numeric disagreement between noun and pronoun. It’s a symptom of my current contract where that disagreement has been institutionalized in the style guide.) Mentoring can be anything from helping a friend with homework to providing life-changing guidance.

(I could not find any pictures of people I mention in here other than one I already posted, so I included a photo of me and Parker during the pre-wedding frenzy. Perhaps I am mentoring her here, as I believe we were formatting a sign, or something.)

Appetizer: Do you view yourself as a mentor? Why or why not?

Heck yeah! And being a mentor is a role I take seriously. I am honored to have the chance to mentor people. I really feel good when I can mentor new or not-very-confident knitters and help them become independent, problem-solving, yarn-addicted companions who have a fine lifelong hobby and a skill they can pass on to others. I am also very happy when I can serve as a mentor to teens and young adults. Everyone needs a confidential, nonjudgmental older friend to talk things over with, run things by, and get input from. It’s another thing I can pass along, as my mentors did for me.

Soup: Other than your parents, who was most influential in shaping the choices you made in your life?

Well, I read a lot, so much of the direction my thought processes went in came from books. But, when I was a teen, I talked a lot to some of our neighbors, who often gathered at our house and talked about their issues. I learned a lot of what I didn’t want to do (marry young with no education, get involved with nice folks who happened to be drug smugglers). And I learned a lot of good, too. I talked a lot to my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother (Delores and Boo), who modeled the kind of parenting and love I wanted for my children. And the high school boyfriend, Corey, influenced me the most. We talked and talked about our religious, political, philosophical and practical beliefs. I would say he’s my biggest influence. In college, a civics professor named Fred Shenkman took a lot of us kids under his wing—I’d say my political beliefs were strongly influenced by him. And in grad school, I’ve already talked about my adviser, Georgia Green Morgan, who also strongly influenced me (and continues to). And finally, when I was first out working and starting my family, the dear and wonderful Roberta Bishop Johnson steered me in the right direction by providing a clear example of someone who loves all of humanity, respects everyone, mothers with all her heart, and uses her considerable intellect to help others. I would be very different if I hadn’t met her (she is a future Wednesday Wonder). All these were adults I could talk to about anything, and whom I could rely on to tell me the truth, even if I wouldn’t like it.

Salad: Other than your children or siblings, whose life have you influenced most?

That sounds like just one person. I don’t really know who I influenced the most, or if I even influence anyone. I probably influenced Tina a little. Maybe Jody some. I’m pretty sure I’ve helped Parker out some, and maybe a couple of Beccano’s friends who have asked me things in confidence. And of course, I have influenced some knitters, but do you really know how you influence people? They usually don’t report back and tell you! I do know that I TRIED to influence a couple of people in my nonprofit job and am sure I failed royally on one.

Entré: What is your favorite experience as a mentor or mentee?

I remember a time when my friend Nancy Jo and I went to visit Roberta at her house, when she was dying from breast cancer. She knew she’d probably not see us again. We spent a long time sitting with her and listening to us share her “institutional knowledge” of the organization we all worked and volunteered for, but also she shared advice for us as parents of school-aged kids—for Nancy Jo as a lesbian just coming out of the closet, and for me as someone very confused about relationships. I am confident that this was one of the most important days of both of our lives.

Dessert: Do you have to know someone personally for that person to be your mentor? Please explain your position.

Hmm, to me, being a mentor involves exchanging information with each other—it’s a two way street, and each participant gets something out of it. People I don’t know but who influence me a lot I would more consider role models—like Barbara J. Walker has been for me.

1 comment:

Tina said...

You surely have influenced me! You're one of the very first people I met after I moved to Austin (with my pink, pink hair), and there's a very good reason you're my "local mom".