Coaches and mentors and community leaders gather to catch up over lunch!!!! 

To me coaching, teaching or mentoring at best is a journey of commitment between two people with a common goal, kind of like a pilgrimage.  One might have the age, skill set and experience to share and the other ideally has a “growth mindset” and the desire to learn as much as possible given the time together. It may only be a year or it may be a life time.  And it is certainly it is a two way street where trust, discernment and reflection are key.  I always love the questions that are asked which might be more important than the answers!

Over my career I have enjoyed many whom I would now call “mentors” who guided me through thick and thin.  These ranged from confident steersmen or boat drivers, to wise community leaders, to pastors or bishops,  to really caring coaches, to dedicated godparents, and to teachers and professors.  They all became friends who for some strange reason believed in me, even when I didn’t.  In turn, I have had over 40 law clerks, interns and externs, law students, social workers, and others who worked shoulder to shoulder with me often in very high stakes and high publicity cases.  I marvel at that, as we were trusting co-workers who tried our very best to produce authentic justice, in a collegial and fair way consistent with due process.  We tried hard to work collaboratively together.

Now having retired after 30+ years as a trial judge and 40+ years in “the law”, I see these students of the law and of life surpassing their own expectations and returning periodically  for a periodic “check up” or “check in”.  People know when they have worked together what the Celtic culture might call a “thin place in life” and appreciate that.  Where else to go when things are tough or great than to see someone who demonstrated unconditional love and trust in you?  I have had the chance to perform their marriages, be there when their children were born, when a crisis occurred, or when they reached another milestone in life like becoming a judge.  That never surprised me, although it did them.  Bottom line for me is an unconditional belief in their potential, even when they or others around them might not believe in themselves.

I see the so-called mentor relationship  as a combination of coach, convener, teacher, confessor, encourager, role model and more.  It does require an amount of  transparency and risk that takes us way out of our comfort zone.  I let the law clerk, lawyer, judge, community change agent decide what to call this relationship.  They might say  “coach”, “judge”, “teacher”, “mentor”, “advisor” or whatever.  It is their call, not mine for sure.  This relationship is in part “avuncular” or uncle like for me.  It is not a title but a bestowed honor I suggest.

Lastly being a mentor is to admit that effort, life lessons and mistakes are key, not  just results.  We are all indeed works in progress and this journey is way more than a series of events,  So I tell those who might call me a mentor that we are doing life together and it is not always pretty but it sure is fun!!!!

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