The Thing About Mentors


The thing about mentors is that the best ones may not even know that they made a difference. I suspect that the best mentors never really set out to mentor anyone at all. They simply lead by their example. I have had many mentors in my life, but there are very few of them that I can thank. Some have passed on: but I simply do not know who the majority of them even were. They flitted into my life when I needed them and then they went on their way.

The first mentor I recall was a little girl the same age as I was then – around 5 years old. I was with several children, and we were following a baby bird as it hopped along the sidewalk, unable to fly. I realise now that it must have fallen out if its nest and it was surely terrified. I had never seen a wild creature so close before, and I was fascinated, eagerly joining the frenzied children as we followed its halting progress. For some reason, I grabbed a dandelion and pressed it repeatedly into the little bird’s face. The yellow flower was bigger than the baby bird’s head and as I knelt down to press the flower into its beak, I kept repeating “Smell the flower, little bird!”

One of the little girls who was with us looked down at me and said in a matter-of-fact tone; “Would you want someone to do that to you if you were little like that?” Bang – just like that, a fellow 5-year old taught me empathy, compassion and kindness. No anger was required; just a well-placed remark at the perfect time. I never harmed another animal again and throughout the remainder of my childhood, I held a number of elaborate funerals for any dead birds that I found (the dead baby birds I found always got the most special, preferential burials).

At a recent gathering, a group of my friends questioned whether children are born with empathy or whether they are taught empathy. At the time, I strongly maintained that you either have empathy or you do not. I only remembered the story of the baby bird a few days later, and I have been pondering ever since: was I born with empathy, or did a 5-year old teach it to me that day? How different would I be without that early lesson?

I do not recall the little girl’s name, but if she happens to be reading this; if she happens to remember a mean little girl being unkind to a helpless baby bird that day; I want her to know that her words made a huge difference…

Source of Photo

Patti Moore Wilson ©


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

21 thoughts on “The Thing About Mentors”

  1. I think you are either born with it. It may be awakened by others but if it isn’t there it can’t be. I don’t think it’s nurture as I have seen parents with several kids have all bar one who have empathy. It has to be in us, two people can have the same things happen to them, one will be bitter and one will grow through it. It’s who we are

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My biggest problem with mentors is their deadly and venomous bite… although, on reflection, I may be thinking of cobras…

    Actually, I was the neighborhood bird rescuer for a few years. I’ve rescued a woodpecker, hummingbird, a sparrow and a who bunch of swallows. The hummingbird is the one I’m most proud of…

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      1. It had flown into a spider’s web and the webbing had gotten wrapped around it’s ankles. I started to pull the webbing off but it looked as if its legs would get pulled off with it. So, I got out my trusty knife and gently sawed the webbing off. The bird flew off. I hope it survived… I don’t know how long it had been without food.

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  3. This is great. Empathy is either in you or it isn’t. It can’t be taught or learned. In your case, you clearly are empathic because what that 5 year old girl said to you, affected you instantly. If you had no empathy, you wouldn’t have cared what she said. I watched a documentary about psychopaths once. It’s a misnomer that all psychos are axe-wielding murderers. Evidently, there are many walking amongst us, ordinary people who just don’t have as much empathy as others. This video explains better than I. Haha

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      1. I know a lot about it too. My best mate’s ex is a mixture of all the bad ‘paths lol. One of my mates calls me Mrs Intuitive, because I always suss people out early on.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I will watch it…and yes, I believe I may have known a few psychopaths and KNOW without doubt that I have worked with a few sociopaths. You are right: they are not all axe-wielding murderers but they sure do seem to get great satisfaction making the lives of those around them as miserable as they can…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are many people with personality disorders who are not psychopaths.

        I think that 5 year old girl sounds like an absolute star.

        Liked by 1 person

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