There are not many causes that pull my heart strings more than those about children…the most innocent of victims in poor circumstances. They have the most to lose and the least with which to fight. Mentors are working every day to bridge the gap for children in crisis or at-risk of crisis. Mentors teach youth skills to achieve their life goals and live productive, fulfilling lives. And, it is still not enough. There is something that we all can do to help.
All kids need the influence of a positive adult. However, not all are devoid of a loving home. Some families have one parent or even two parents who work long hours to support the family. Other children have a learning or physical disability, or are simply struggling in school. Others may have endured a traumatic experience such as divorce, loss of a parent to death or prison, abuse or neglect, or are in foster care.
I am inspired by the life stories of two star NFL athletes, Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Patrick Willis of the greatest team in the league, San Francisco 49ers. Both men endured poverty and abuse as children, were rescued by an adult mentor, attended college, and embraced sports with motivation to overcome obstacles. Both Graham and Willis have shared that the adult mentors in their lives made the difference for them.
Jimmy Graham was abused and abandoned at 9 and again at 11 years old. While attending a local church, a young mother, Becky Vinson, took him under her wing. The three lived in a small trailer with no heat, where they had to sleep in one room during winter to stay warm. Becky graduated from college and her example encouraged Jimmy to excel as well. While Jimmy went on to college at the University of Miami on a basketball scholarship, he played one year of football, and was drafted by the Saints in 2010.
Patrick Willis and his three younger siblings, living in poverty and violence from an alcoholic parent, were on their way to foster care. A coach and a young couple took the Willis kids into their home and encouraged their education. Patrick went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi, playing baseball, basketball, and football, where he was All-American. A highly awarded athlete, he was drafted in 2007 by San Francisco.
The key factor for these outstanding athletes was a mentor, an adult who envisioned a future for these kids whose parents gave up on them. There are many children, who are in crisis or at-risk of crisis today.
Youth mentors make a difference on a variety of schedules. Organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, or your local school district match adults with at-risk students to provide help with homework, engage in hobbies or sports, teach leadership and life skills, and serve as a positive role model. YOU can make a difference as a youth mentor.
What is your inspiration for mentoring? Please share. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!