Mentoring: The Essential Piece of the Puzzle
Braid is founded on the belief that we are all the beloved of God, that God’s love is unconditional, and that we are all – and we mean all – able to dwell in God and God in us. Rebecca and I have spent our ministry, whether with youth or octogenarians, rich or poor, Greek or Jew, male or female, gay or straight, housed or homeless, proclaiming this truth. It is the constant.
One way to begin to engage this truth, to begin to see God as the One who loves unconditionally, is to think upon those people in our lives who have exhibited this unconditional love to us. To take time and remember those people who, by just being with them, made us feel that we were beloved and worthy just for being us.
And there is probably no time when this experience of being loved unconditionally is more important than in our childhood. The earlier we learn the truth of our belovedness, the sooner we can trust ourselves to engage the world and engage others with an optimism and a hope and a joy.
On the other hand, when life is lived with adults who only give love that is conditional, that is, “I will only love you if you fulfill these obligations,” when we are shaped and formed by a conditional sort of love, the world begins to shrink. And not only our world but our sense of self. We begin to feel, “I only have value and worth, I am only loved if I can fulfill all that is asked of me. There is nothing that is inherently lovable or worthy about just me.”
Living life knowing only love which is conditional means not only does the world shrink, not only does our understanding of self shrink, but ultimately we begin to place God in a very small box. A conditional box. God’s love for us can only be predicated upon us keeping all the commandments. Only then can God love me. Us. When I have been good enough. And when this happens the entirety of existence becomes very small.
This is the reality for many children. There are far too many children who know only conditional love, and far too many who don’t know any love at all. And far too many of these children live in foster care.
Over the last few months we have discovered the hard truth that for many children in foster care there is not one adult in their lives who loves unconditionally. Now, we are very careful to state that there are plenty of adults in their lives who care and are concerned and work very hard to help and heal and love. But these adults usually have a role or function in the “system.” What has been identified to us is the absence of one single adult who is present just to listen, to care, to love without any conditions.
We have also heard over the last few months from many adults who experienced a part of their life in foster care that they can ascribe much of their “success” to the presence of one adult who was present in their lives just to listen and to care and to love.
That is why at Braid we believe our mission is to help adults become mentors to youth in foster care. We are helping adults who want to be present in a child’s life just to listen and to care and to love without any conditions and connecting them to children who have a real need to be listened to, children who have a real need to have someone care, children who have a real need to know they are loved. Even for one hour a week.
And we believe that if a child can know unconditional love for one hour a week from a mentor then that child can go on to see that the universe is rather large and full, that the world is rather large and full, that their life is rather large and full, that they themselves are rather large and full: full of worthy, full of hope, full of love.
What else should a child know? What else should a teen know? A mentor can make all the difference.