Mentoring, to me, is about connecting with kids and helping them become the best version of themselves. That may not always be deep conversations, though we hope those will happen. For me, it is about meeting a child on her level, walking with her where she’s at, and praying for some sort of measurable growth.
From the first time Sadie* and I hung out, I knew she was going to be a tough one to get through to. When we went to our first Club meeting, she communicated mostly through growls and used a notebook to “talk” to me by drawing pictures. She didn’t want to participate in anything and got nervous if I had to leave her side.
In January, I began to see a shift in Sadie. When we got to Club, I asked her if she wanted to take her coat off, knowing already her answer would be no. She surprised me! She said I could take her coat and go hang it up in the hallway, which also meant I had to leave her for a few minutes. That doesn’t seem like anything big for a typical child, but for Sadie, this meant she was beginning to trust me and those around her at Club.
In March, Sadie really began to come out of her shell. We went hiking, and Sadie let us all know just how funny and competitive she is. It was a fresh, new side of her that was such a contrast to the little girl I first saw in September.
During one of our Mentoring visits, Sadie and I went to a movie. I recognized that this may be a trigger for her to be scared or overwhelmed, so we stopped and got a stuffed animal for her to take in with her. She wanted me to have one as well. There we were, walking in to the movie theater, each with a stuffed animal. I got some strange looks from other adults, but it was worth it. It gave Sadie the security she needed and that’s what mattered.
At our last club, Sadie participated in the songs and even asked to be part of the skit. The colors she used when painting her crafts were light blue, pink, orange, and very little black. In October, she used black and red, and drew things that were scary and dark. She didn’t growl, but instead she communicated exclusively through words and we spent time during our car ride singing songs together.
I can’t say that she wouldn’t have shown some improvement without Club and Mentoring, but I CAN say that I know it helped her. Club and Mentoring provided a place for her to connect, learn, and grow in a healthy environment. I am grateful that I was placed as her Mentor, because spending time with Sadie also helped me to grow and adapt. I was able to stretch out of my comfort zone and learn how to communicate with a child who didn’t always know how to express herself. Club and Mentoring changed me, but more importantly, I know it changed Sadie.
*Name changed to protect identity.