My name is Denny. I’m 56, married for 34 years and have 2 grown daughters. My wife and I moved to this area of the country 4 years ago from N.E. Ohio in order for me to accept a new job.
Many years ago I read “The Purpose Driven Life” by pastor and author Rick Warren. I have always felt blessed to have the childhood, marriage, and daughters that God gave me, and I was looking for the right opportunity to give back. The Catholic Charities Mentoring Program connected with my need.
My mentee is a 10 year old boy that has not had an adult male in his life with any consistency for several years.
This experience is no different than building relationships with adults: it starts with trust. However, a youth has a limited frame of reference, and only knows what they have seen and heard. It’s amazing how influenced kids are by their surroundings, and that can be positive or negative. It has been very rewarding to see positive behaviors appear if even slowly, as it is confirmation that we all have the capacity to do the right thing. We just need to have some positive role models to encourage the appropriate behaviors.
After the first few months, I approached my mentee’s guardian about acquiring a bike for him. They do not have private or public transportation. He lives near the center of a small town and getting to the public pool, parks, and friends by bike would not have been overly risky. I asked him what type of a bike he would like and then set out to find some used bike choices on Craig’s List. We made a day of it and discussed how this was an opportunity for him to show everyone that he could be responsible with something of value. When we found the one that he desired, the look of joy on his face will always be remembered. Over time, the bike has become an important tool in our mentoring relationship. We often go for bike rides during our mentoring time. We also have, over time, had to repair the bike together, and I have used it as a tool to discuss other things regarding respect, responsibility, and gratitude. I feel the bike has created a positive memory for my mentee to look back on.
I recently stopped into the Boy’s and Girl’s club to fill out the background check form to permit me to participate in the in-house activities. When I introduced myself to the head counselor he said, “Wow, whatever you are doing with him, it is really working. We have noticed that he controls himself so much better than before. If something would upset him previously, he would swear and leave the facility. Now, we find he will go over and sit by himself and gather control and then return to the group activity.”
As stated above, we all just need to have some positive role models to encourage the appropriate behavior.
*Story written Dec. 2014 for the Catholic Charities annual report. Though Denny and his mentee maintain their friendship, due to a change in life circumstances, we are currently looking for another quality mentor for this energetic young man.