In 1995 I had an experience that changed my life forever. I got sucked in by a promotional testimony in our church. I watched as cute little boys between the ages of 8 and 12 described what a mentor program had meant in their lives. They looked at their volunteer mentors as if they were heroes. That's what I wanted to be, a little boy's hero. I signed up for the program. It didn't play out quite the way I dreamed.
This post is a little longer than usual, but please take the time to read to the end. You may end up being someone's hero.
Several weeks after the moving promotion in church, those who signed up learned about the children assigned to us. Many of the boys had been abused or betrayed by their fathers. It could take some time to win their friendship and trust. The boys had filled out questionnaires to help us get to know them before meeting face to face. We were to read the questionnaires and ask questions.
My face began to burn with anger as I read my boy's folder. My dreams of an adoring little third grader looking to me as a hero crumbled. I'd been duped. My partner was two years older than the upper age limit of the program and it was obvious he was not a happy little boy. In answer to the question, favorite sport, he'd scrawled, "None!"
What were his hobbies? "None."
What did he feel were his greatest strengths? "None."
He had answered only two questions. His name, he had confirmed, was Josh Blay; his favorite kind of music was "Death Metal." I didn't know what "Death Metal" was, but I didn't think they'd be playing in church on Sunday.
"I thought these boys were looking for companionship," I protested. This boy didn't want to be in the program.
"You tease me with little boys still young enough to look up to an adult," I complained, "and you give me a rebellious, antisocial teenager. I haven't got the time, energy or skills to meet this boy's needs."
The leader of the group explained that Josh's father had just been sent to prison for life. His mother was left to raise four children on her own; she desperately wanted a positive male influence for Josh.
"We chose Josh as your partner," the chairwoman said, "because we thought you were the most qualified to be his friend."
Another one of the volunteers spoke up. "This isn't about your needs, Ken, it's about Josh's needs." He said it kindly, but the words stung. I wanted to snap back, "Then why don't you take him?"
Several weeks later, I met Josh. His questionnaire had prepared me to see a hulking, surly kid with a bone through his nose and a bad disposition. Instead I was introduced to a small, shy boy who barely weighed 100 pounds. I liked him instantly.
Josh didn't talk much even after we got to know each other. I did learn that he disliked church and wasn't very fond of talking about God. I liked his honesty. He had a great sense of humor and a desire to do the right thing. That first year there were no deep discussions, no heartwarming conversion experiences -- just a growing love for a boy with wonderful potential.
My only disappointment was that it felt like a one-way relationship. I told Josh how much I'd grown to care about him. I shared my heart, my family and my life with him -- but Josh shared little with me. I wondered if any good could result from this lopsided relationship. The ghost voice of a meeting past whispered, "It's not about you!"
One night as I was going to bed, the phone rang. It was Josh. "Can I come over and use your computer?" he asked. He was late writing a report for school. It had to be completed that night. Since Josh didn't drive, I'd have to get dressed, drive the 15 minutes to his house, bring him back to my house, wait for him to finish the report, and then drive him back home. It was going to be a long night. Grumbling, I got dressed.
I brought Josh to my home, showed him how to use the computer, and left him to write his report. I told him I'd help him run a grammar and spelling check when he'd finished. About an hour later, Josh called me into the office to help finish his report. I read the first three lines and burst into tears. Here is his report.
The Person I Admire
The person I admire is my mentor, Ken Davis. I respect him because he teaches me things that I didn't know. He teaches me to do better in school by giving me 20 dollars for every B. (He quickly cleaned up the Cs and Ds and cleaned out my wallet.) He takes me places that I haven't been before. He lets me fly his own plane. He thinks that I can do better than I think I can. Sometimes Ken helps me get jobs. He's always trying to help me and my family out. I've known him for two years. I met him though a church program that I didn't want to do, but my mom made me. But instead of telling the truth on the application, I put down all this satanic stuff so nobody would pick me as a mentor. When Ken got my questionnaire he didn't want anything to do with me. He wasn't even going to meet me, so my plan almost worked. But now I'm glad that he stuck with the program. Without him I don't think I would be doing as good as I am now. I would probably be doing bad in school and getting into a lot of trouble. He has a wife Diane, and two daughters, Traci, and Taryn. He is a motivational speaker. I might go with him to one of his out of state programs this summer. In conclusion, I respect him for all the things he does and all the things he has taught me.
Me and Josh
In truth Josh has become my hero. I'm not sure I'd have demonstrated the same character and courage if I'd been placed in a situation like his. I have many hopes and dreams for Josh. Not the least of them is that he'll someday find the wisdom to totally trust the God who created him. I'm eternally grateful for Josh's friendship. I am so proud of the man he has become.
In 2002, Josh, moved to Tennessee to live with us for four years. He graduated with honors from O'more College of Design with a degree in interior design. He has a great work ethic and is faithful to the love of his life, Megan. Josh is now 32 years old. He is like a son to me. And this year he handed me his little boy, Carbon, who I have claimed as my seventh grandchild.
Me, Carbon, and Josh
There are a couple of important lessons to be learned here.
Don't believe the questionnaire! Beneath the outward appearance of rebellion and anger was a golden boy who has blessed me more than I have blessed him.
Be the hero in someone's life. You may discover that they become the hero in yours.
I love you, Josh and Megan! I am so glad God brought us together. Josh, you are my hero.
Question: Who is the hero in your life? You can leave a comment below.