Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inspired to Give Back- One Volunteer Makes the Connection

One of my favorite things about my role as Mentor Match Coordinator at Trusted Mentors is learning what truly inspires people to volunteer.

Yesterday afternoon, I met with a talented, bright, and compassionate young business woman who so succinctly verbalized why she wants to be a Trusted Mentor.  Her thoughts were powerful enough to share.

As a young, upwardly mobile twenty-something, Mae sauntered in to the mentor interview dressed neatly in a gray suit and peacoat with her hair pulled back. We initially met during our Bags 2 Riches Gala where she volunteered as part of the planning committee. Her infectious energy and friendly demeanor made her a standout amongst the volunteers that evening and I knew I wanted to recruit her as a mentor.

Mae shared, “My life motto is to make a difference, to profoundly impact someone’s life for the better.” She stated that she feels our “deepest impact is made through close relationships.”

She spoke about our mentees, who are coming out of recent homelessness or incarceration, as people who have “a lot to admire.” They are “resilient and have fight and are able to empathize more” with others who are struggling.  She also talked about the mentee population in general as being nonjudgmental of others who have experienced hardships.

I then posed the following interview question to Mae: “How do you understand a mentor to be different than a rescuer?” Her answer was poignant, striking a chord with me. She said that the difference is, rescuers take action and the evidence of their work is external. A service is provided such as a hot meal or a warm winter coat. Mentors, on the other hand, focus on internal change. Through longer term, meaningful relationship, mentors impact what happens within their mentee so that sustainable change occurs. In other words, mentors don’t look for quick fixes--they work relationally.

When asked what she hopes to gain from a mentoring experience, Mae spoke of her desire to meet people that she “wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet” in her normal day to day life. “Everyone has a story” to share. Mae admits that she’s working on developing her listening skills, as she rightly asserts that listening is paramount as a mentor--as it is in any good relationship. Add in a dash of compassion, empathy, and commitment and Mae will certainly make an impact as a Trusted Mentor.

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