Recently, a certain young lady at university asked my wife if she could mentor her. As an undergrad, she wanted a life coach who could help and coach her about life beyond academics. After a careful interview to establish the seriousness of the request, my wife accepted.
This encounter brought to mind a recent memorable experience I had when I was invited as a guest of honour at a dinner arranged to honour graduating students from a certain university. Apart from the excellent food and wonderful company that marked the event, the story of one young man made a remarkable impression on me that evening and underscored the value of mentors (or coaches) in life.
Having entered college from a very poor family, the young man (whom we shall call Solomon in this narrative) was asked to share some wisdom with the continuing students pertaining to his life as a college student. Looking at Solomon and listening to him this evening, the transformation from poverty in his life was self-evident. Solomon challenged his friends to be prudent in the use of their pocket money (and other financial resources) and encouraged them to consider opportunities for entrepreneurship even as students.
In his own case, at the verge of graduation, Solomon is a thriving agro-business and auto dealer worth a few millions of kwacha already (yet his ventures started from very modest resources which he has learned to grow over the years).
One key lesson emerging from Solomon’s story was about the rare opportunity which students (or younger people) have to learn from older people, who may not be easily accessible once one leaves the university campus. Solomon reminded his fellow students that as a student one has access to a ready pool of wisdom and knowledge at no extra cost; if properly harnessed, such knowledge could help one lay the right foundations for a prosperous life beyond college.
The insightfulness of Solomon further evoked memories of my own student days at Chirunga Campus. As a young student on campus I learned so much from the counsel of men (and women) who took time and interest to guide me in my own journey. There was a point when I wanted to switch ‘careers’ and withdraw from studying law (to go to bible school) until one lecturer (a very unlikely mentor, all things considered in my circumstances at the time) helped me realize the ‘folly’ of my decision (I remain grateful for such counsel to this day).
Then there were other people who took their time to instruct me as a young Christian in order to properly balance my journey of faith with my academic responsibilities. They spent considerable time teaching me the word of God and even spent some money to provide certain literature which I needed for my nourishment and growth at the time.
Yet another set of mentors (a married couple) spoke to me and my girl-friend at the time (now my lovely wife Mary) on how to have a healthy relationship which could lead to a fulfilling married life. Their wisdom shared almost 25 years ago is still sound and relevant in our lives and continues to impact and influence our lives as a married couple.
Solomon’s story got me thinking: what would my life be without the counsel of mentors? In this journey, we all need others who have gone ahead of us to show us the best way to take. There is immeasurable value in seeking out people we respect and admire in order to learn from their experiences and wisdom. No man is an island (or as we say in Chichewa, ‘safunsa anadya phula’) Correspondingly, as with the example of the young lady who approached my wife, it would not be feasible to talk about mentorship if there are no mentors: there is therefore, a responsibility on older people to be available to invest into the lives of younger people. Of course, not everyone can mentor someone: it requires a certain level of commitment and interest in the welfare of others. Yet all the time and energy spent helping such younger people (whether at work, at church, from your local community or village) to grow into responsible citizens is a very fulfilling endeavor. The philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child is still valid in this modern era: we multiply the impact of our life experiences when we share them for the benefit and success of others we encounter on this journey of life!