Wednesday, March 10, 2021


 Gordon MacDonald, longtime pastor at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA, author of a few notable books, and more recently pastor at Centerpoint in Concord has advice at age 81 about what Christians should be doing. A regular reader listened to one of his leadership talks (likely the one at the link or something similar) and described it to me on one of our walks. He mentioned mentoring right off the mark.

The anecdote I heard in the 70s was that someone had asked Billy Graham if there was anything he would do differently and he'd said "I would choose twelve and train them well." I am reasonably certain Graham never said this, only having his name dragged in by someone who wanted to give the idea weight. We are called to various tasks.

I always feel a bit guilty when I hear this talk about mentoring.  I have had no mentors, not at work, church, nor family life.  I have only rarely thought about the topic over the years, likely avoiding it. My refusal to seek out anyone a generation older and seek their advice probably stems from my parent's divorce and my mother's remarriage.  I did well in classes taught by grandfatherly types, poorly in those taught by men of my (three) fathers' generation. The fault is mine.

Being obsessed with the writing of Lewis, who was born in a year between my grandfathers, likely covered a lot of that ground for me. I did have one psychiatrist a generation older that I respected and listened to attentively on many things.  A Catholic gentleman, educated in England with most of his career in Canada, who took his last job with us in New Hampshire. But that's it, Lewis and Stevens.

I have been very fortunate in my male friends of my own generation since earliest years, friends from school continuing into adulthood. My adult friends have been often brilliant, often wise, and continuing for years. I do find that one can learn something from just about anyone only by paying a little attention - and even a complete fool can make you think what is it, precisely, that makes him such a difficulty? I have had female friends as well, but fewer, usually at work or spouses of the male friends. 

As for being a mentor I haven't had so much of that, either. I made it a point to be both encouraging of younger workers and a dispenser of serious advice in an entertaining way.  But i never had an ongoing specific relationship of bringing someone along, monitoring their progress. I was also free with advice about outside things, especially family and parenting. "Have more children and pay less attention to them.  They're going to be fine."

I have five sons, they sometimes listened to me, and one, the older of the Romanians, surprises me even now with what he remembers. "Yah, I remember you saying that when I was growing up, and I do that now."  Stunning, really.  He certainly didn't look as if he was paying the least attention then.  My two oldest sons have absorbed so much that they would carry on just fine if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. 

Not much else happening for mentoring.  I should.  If you know anyone willing to sit still a few minutes I'd be glad to listen to their story and give them advice, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

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