The young discount the old; the old dismiss the young and too much is lost in-between.” show_quote_icon=”yes”]Avi Luskie taught me how to block.
We played sandlot football in my neighborhood. Boys gathered at the “field” and we played tackle football on hard dirt. I was a tall, lanky, uncoordinated kid. I was often picked last. No matter. We were out to have fun. And fun we had.
At the end of our street lived a 20something stud. “Avi” (short for Avner, I suspect) was a big strong athlete. As elementary age boys, we looked up to him, literally and metaphorically.
On occasion, Avi joined our sport-de-jour. Of course, no one could stop him or tackle him, so by default, he was the quarterback. We didn’t mind because he was Avi. But more than macho, he was a teacher and an encourager.
One hot humid Houston afternoon (I repeat myself), a dozen of us were playing football. It may as well have been the super bowl. Avi was our quarterback. He’d call one of two plays: either Avi ran or passed to Scott, the only kid who could catch.
In the huddle, Avi told me to block someone. So I went up to the line ready to block this big kid. He flattened me before I knew what happened. Avi came over and helped me up and said, “You did great! Next time, pick somebody your size!” Almost 50 years later, I still remember.
Perhaps the first thing to clarify is that you may not find one mentor but you can find many. Here are five things that have helped me along the way:
- Look for a person you respect. As a young believer, I did not know what I did not know. But I knew, I did not know the Bible. Christians quoted verses and talked a lingo I did not understand. So in the local church I attended, I looked for men who were mature and knowledgeable. I gently pestered my way into getting lunch or coffee with them. I chased after a banker, a surgeon and a painter. Each of them patiently gave me their time. Even though we read books and the Bible together, it was their maturity and demeanor that most impressed me. Yes, there were “generational” differences, but because I respected their marriages, business, and dealings with other people, I learned a ton.
- Look for a person in your area of interest. As obvious as this seems, it is easy to miss. If you are married, look for a man who is 5 – 10 years ahead of you. Ideally, you may want to pursue a couple and you may have to “chase” several because they may be too busy, you may not “click” (and all four of you get along). If you are in sales, look for a salesperson. If you are in medicine, look for someone in medicine. Even though many things are different, mature believers who have walked more miles and worked more years than you have a ton to offer.
- Look for a leader who is a reader. Perhaps it’s cliché but leaders are readers. (The converse is not necessarily true.) The point here is that good mentors and leaders are also learners. No one likes a know-it-all. But we all love it when the “expert” shares his own questions, doubts and difficulties. People who read expose themselves to thoughts outside their capacity. Simply ask them what have you read lately? It will reveal a lot about them and their answer may become your reading list.
- Learn to ask good questions. Certainly we want a mentor who will listen, empathize, encourage, offer counsel and even correct us. But we miss the gold if we do all the talking. As one who talks a lot, I have to discipline myself when I’m around my mentors. Sure, it’s a friendship – a lot of give and take – but I need their counsel more than they need to hear me blather. A simple solution is to write out a few questions before you get with your mentor.
- Initiate, pursue and keep looking. Perhaps the greatest challenge is getting up off the sofa-of-life and pursuing others. I find many young people are hesitant to find a mentor. And that’s a tragedy. The risk is not that great but the reward is extraordinary. So pursue a person. Maybe you “click” and maybe you don’t. That’s OK. Keep pursuing. The only difference between having mentors or not is whether or not you will take initiative until you find some.
I’ve had many mentors, some for a brief season, and some for many years. No one of them offered everything; all of them offered many things. Avi taught me to block.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.
Proverbs 3:1–4 (NASB95)