Mentoring. After seven years... here is what I have figured out.
It is everything I thought it would be and conversely nothing I thought it would be.
Jessica was almost 7 when we first met through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
I went into it thinking I would be encouraging a young girl to be all that she can be, that I would introduce her to places and things she might not otherwise experience, and that I would delight in her delight as she discovered a heretofore unseen world. It has been all of that.
An appreciative uncomplaining child who often ends our time with, "Thanks for another awesome day."
What's not to love about this?
What is not often visible to the naked eye is what mentoring has done for me.
The benevolence has been astonishingly mutual.
The truth is, Jess has been there through more changes in my life than hers.
In our seven years together, both of my daughters have graduated college, moved away to big cities and successful careers, our puppy turned into a mature dog, (well, a dog anyway )and I sold our family home of 20 years.
What has remained unwavering is my relationship with Jessica.
It has often left me wondering who has delivered whom?
Lest this sound all nauseatingly blissful, the beauty is, it is not.
We "get" each other, and that makes it unflinchingly real.
I can't hide my own imperfections from Jess. She sees me for who I am.
If you have ever casually strolled in front of my car as I search for a parking spot in Trader Joe's parking lot, I probably don't have to tell you that patience is an elusive virtue I am still working on.
Jess is there to gently chide me and ask me to consider that there may be a good reason for a pedestrian's obliviousness. Ouch.
I am reminded anew what life looks like through the prism of innocence and an inherent goodness that comes from her core.
That is no accident of nature. It is the result of Jessica's mom, who steadfastly insists her children be the best they can be in a world that often challenges that notion.
I am incredibly proud to be a different branch of this thriving family tree.
My relationship with Jess was born of a desire to make a difference. What I know now, is that we both have.