The following article appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal on January 12, 2018.
“Stop complaining, and do something about it.”
Those words were spoken to me by a very wise woman 20 years ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but her challenge to me would set me on a course that would change my life and countless others.
Adrienne Bailey, former CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South, threw down that gauntlet over dinner after listening to me complain about crime in Memphis when I had my car broken into at Shelby Farms. Her late husband, Judge D’Army Bailey, and my wife, Susan Lawless-Glassman, echoed Adrienne’s suggestion, so the next day I went to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I applied to be a Big Brother.
After having my ego wounded by rejection from my first match, who believed me to be too old (I was only in my 50s at the time), I was matched with a 10-year-old named William Terrell. William was a student at White Station Elementary School, and he lived with his mother and younger sister. His aunts and grandmother were very involved in his life, but he did not have a lot of male influence, so his mother had signed him up for a Big Brother.
When I first met William, he was an adorable kid who loved watching sports and driving go-carts. He is now an attorney with FedEx in Dubai, a husband, a stepfather, and to put it simply, a good guy. Credit for his many personal and professional accomplishments goes to him and his family, as does credit for the positive changes he made in my life. My relationship with William has helped me to view the world differently, understand other perspectives better, and enjoy many, many basketball games.
Maybe you too have found yourself complaining about something wrong in our community and wondered how you could help bring about positive change. January is National Mentoring Month, so it’s the perfect time to consider getting personally involved and help a young person achieve his or her full potential. The need is great: According to MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor. Young people who are at risk of falling off track but have a mentor are 55 percent more likely than their peers to attend college and 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs. They’re also 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions.
Through the traditional partner-associate law firm structure, a form of mentoring has been a part of the American legal community since its beginning. Historically, lawyers even used a “partners desk,” where an older lawyer and a younger, less experienced lawyer sat on opposite sides of a desk facing each other. In this and other ways, lawyers have worked in a collaborative way to solve problems for their clients, teaching and learning along the way.
Having practiced law for more than 40 years, I have been both a mentor and a mentee, and I can personally speak to the immeasurable benefit mentoring brings to a person and the community in which he or she lives. Serving as a mentor doesn’t just mean giving advice or setting an example. It’s also a way to help someone see his or her potential and find a way to reach goals that may have seemed impossible.
For William and me, that was graduating from law school and working for one of the world’s most admired companies on the other side of the globe, but the benefits that come from mentoring aren’t always just professional, and you don’t have to be a professional to be a mentor. Mentors come from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter where you work or how much money you have. All you need is a commitment to be a positive force in another person’s life.
Those interested in mentoring opportunities may learn more from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership at mentoring.org and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South at msmentor.org, which has served 65,000 children since inception.
“To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.” —Unknown
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