I’ve been prompted this week to write about mentorship. I’ve written previously of a high school teacher who changed my life because she noticed me. Today, I want to tell you about another woman whose impact has been significant. I’ve been blessed by her friendship over the past twenty-some years. She is kind, always. She leads by demonstrating a servant’s heart, and she is a brilliant role model.
After a rather tumultuous year in college, I began working for a large non-profit child care society. Pat Holowatiuk was the Director, and I was her administrative assistant. In many ways, it was a perfect job. Whenever I tired of balancing the accounts or trying to keep the wretched computer running, I had the option of doing something with the kids. When the cook was away, Pat and I invented something in the kitchen, and on other days we did the shopping. If parents needed to talk to Pat, I was the designated kid-entertainment so they could.
One day I was in the playroom reading to a child on my lap. It was a happily noisy and boisterous place. For a reason I can’t recall, I was trying to get another kid’s attention without disturbing the one on my lap.
“Richard,” I said. He didn’t hear me. “Hey, Richard. RICHARD.”
That’s when Pat walked in. I’ll never forget how she quickly assessed the vibe of the room, then looked at me and walked over to Richard. She bent down, tapped him on the shoulder and quietly said in his ear, “I think Crystal wants to talk to you.”
That lovely child looked up, and then immediately come over to me. I remember feeling somewhat ashamed because I’d thought he was spitefully ignoring me. I was so wrong, and I never forgot her lesson.
Often a whisper is louder than a shout.
Pat gave me a gift that I’d never really had before. She gave me her complete trust. One day, I betrayed that trust. The fact is, I did something very wrong–something I knew was very wrong–and while I had rationalized it to myself at the time, I did it anyway.
That wrong-doing was a heavy weight. I finally blurted it out to her, and immediately wanted to claw away the hurt from her eyes. Pat asked me some very difficult questions. I gave her honest answers. She allowed me to make restitution. And she asked if I would ever do it again. I promised I wouldn’t.
I kept that promise.
I don’t trust easily, but that was the first day I realized what the word meant. I knew that I had seriously damaged my credibility in her eyes and I worked hard to regain her confidence. She’d given me another life-long lesson.
Forgiveness is not the same as trust. One is for the past, one is for the future. A true second chance is giving someone an opportunity to earn your trust again.
The black and white and rather ugly truth is this: Pat could have made things very difficult for me that day and she didn’t. That singular act of kindness made me stay more years than I’d planned to. I recognized I had so much to learn, and I knew she could teach me.
Thank you, my friend. I strive to be a woman of integrity because of you.
Now it’s your turn. Which mentor has redirected your life? What lessons did they teach you?