We all have a strong, built-in desire to be in relation with one another. This is absolutely true of mentoring. Children impacted by fatherlessness are accustomed to having authority figures leave, we want to change that expectation.
The Mentoring Project is privileged to watch tiny (and massive) miracles happen day after day, much like the story captured here. We'd like to share one story of hope and life change witnessed on a “field ride” during which we got to tag along with Quinn, one of our mentors, as he spent some time with his mentee, Xavier.* We headed to Xavier’s school around lunch time. When he saw Quinn round the corner into his classroom, his whole face erupted in a smile. He had been waiting all week for this moment.
First, Quinn and Xavier got down to business – focusing on the tasks that provide the basis for their school-based mentoring program. Even though the topic of conversation was Algebra, Xavier was soaking up Quinn’s attention like refreshing water. The guys were enjoying each other’s company and between high-fives and laughs, we faded into the background of their weekly ritual. Quinn's many encouraging words were traded for Xavier’s bashful smile.
Homework done. Hoops for dessert. Quinn guides Xavier’s free-throw technique. During a rest break, Xavier told us that he looks forward to Quinn’s visits “so that I can beat him on the court at one on one.” They both laughed. We pulled Xavier aside and asked him why he liked hanging out with Quinn every week. Xavier said, “he’s gonna be a great dad. I wish he were mine.” The words hung in the air – Xavier not realizing the depth of what he just said while we knew full well. Quinn had become his champion, the one man Xavier can count on to show up week after week.
Like Xavier, most young urbanites are growing up without dad. John Sowers, The Mentoring Project’s president, explains in his book Fatherless Generation that “fatherlessness is a personal tragedy and a collective epidemic. Some 25 million American kids are growing up without dad. One third of those will never see their fathers. Fatherlessness is the engine driving some of our worst social problems, from gangs and youth violence, to teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, school dropouts and suicide.”
At The Mentoring Project, we believe that small victories move mountains. We believe that mentors win by showing up. We believe that fatherless and at-risk children crave the attention of a caring adult, a mentor, who can be a stalwart of predictability in a sea of change. Although a mentor can never replace a father, he can become the plumb line of a child’s hectic world, in a way that allows a precious young soul to find a sense of place.
At The Mentoring Project, we are big fans of Quinn AND Xavier. Because Quinn shows up for Xavier on a consistent basis, Xavier is dreaming big dreams. Because Xavier has a mentor, studies show he will do better socially and in school. He will be less likely to be swayed by peer pressure, less likely to skip class, less likely to try drugs. Xavier will be more likely to positively engage with his community, pursue new skills, have openness towards authority figures and complete more educational milestones. For kids with mentors, life just gets better.
God wants us to understand this idea of faithful and unconditional presence. He is with us: yesterday, today, and forever. In the depths, in the dark places, in the valley of the shadow of death, God is there. This is something that he communicates over and over again in the Bible. God’s heart and intention to be with us is never louder than at the Incarnation of Christ, the miracle Christmas birth of Immanuel, God WITH US. God demonstrates a desire for radical “with-ness,” the “with-ness” that had not been fully restored since the Garden of Eden, when God walked with Adam and Eve in the “cool of the day.” God again desires to be close to his people, to us. Jesus by prophetic name is “God with us,” and he promises to be with us until the end. That’s why at The Mentoring Project, we want every fatherless child to have a caring mentor. We want every at-risk child to know that they are valuable to a responsible and fun adult who will show up for them week after week.
The Mentoring Project (@TMProject) exists to rewrite the fatherless story through mentoring. We recruit, train, equip and encourage mentors to show up for at-risk and fatherless kids.
*Xavier is a fictitious name for Quinn’s real mentee