There used be a TV programme called “This is Your Life” and it was family viewing when I was a child. The format was very simple: a famous person would be “ambushed” wherever they were and were taken to the television studio, where their life story would be read out from the ‘big red book’, complete with embarrassing photos and punctuated with people turning up to tell little anecdotes. One time the surprised celebrity was the footballer, Kevin Keegan. What impressed me greatly at the time was that the person who spotted he had footballing talent, was a nun who had taught him at primary school. Even though he struggled in other aspects of schooling, she encouraged him in what he was good at and made sure other people noticed his talent.
I learned recently that the term ‘mentor’ comes from Greek mythology. Odysseus was away fighting wars and travelling across the seas and his son Telemachus was missing him terribly. In Odysseus’ household, there was a man called Mentor. He did not try and replace the boy’s father. Instead, he encouraged and supported Telemachus as he grew up, offering guidance and advice. A great mentor does not try to get us to be more like them. They encourage us to be more like us. The nun who taught Kevin Keegan may or may not have been gifted with a football. What was important was that she could spot talent and nurture it. Mentors recognise our talents and help us deal with our weaknesses. We all need people in our lives like this. Perhaps you can remember a teacher or another adult who believed in you when you were a child. Even as adults, we sometimes need someone that can encourage and guide us, to give us confidence in our own abilities. However, we also have the opportunity to mentor others, to encourage, support and inspire confidence. Who are you going to encourage and support this week?