3 ways to honor your mentors

“…. but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40

I’ve been joking that the most influential person in my life was my wife’s eighth grade health teacher. I don’t know her name, but I do know my wife drank the kool-aid.

Seriously, I think the woman casts a shadow over every day of my life. She influences the foods we eat, the vitamins we take, the exercise we get. She is the reason we take the stairs instead of the elevator and park far from the store. If I live to be 85, her health teacher should get some of the credit.

Of course, I’ve had my own teachers and they have had their own influences, such as the foreign exchange teacher from Australia I had for language arts in fifth grade. I had a 5th grade-ish crush on her, and that is the only reason I know what a participle is.

A teacher in eighth grade taught me to write about what I care about. My Dad taught me to be patient and gracious in a world filled with angry men. A professor in graduate school had our class over and taught me about the importance of hospitality in an academic setting, a lesson that has served me well in 45 years of teaching.

The list goes on, and each of these in their own way has cast a shadow on my life and vocation. And you have your own list, men and women—teachers, pastors, club leaders, youth workers, mentors, coaches— who have modeled as well as taught you important lessons and so influenced the choices you make.

So here are three things you should do.

recall them

Be intentional about reflecting on the influential people in your life. Make a list. Make a note on the list of the contribution each made to your thinking and values. Thinking about a few of your teachers will cause you to remember more of your teachers. This is good.

If you have contact with people who had the same teacher, reminisce. Tell the stories because it will reinforce or remind you of the lessons. It is good to remember and recount these influencers. And it is good to share these memories with others.

thank them

If possible drop them a note or make a phone call or drop by. The notes and visits from former students always encourage me. It may be the reason I still do what I do.

The internet has made this more doable. I get random emails from students I had 30 or 40 years ago, some of whom I don’t even remember. You can probably look these people up and message them on Facebook.

But reach out in some way and say thanks. Be specific. Recall the specific moment when you got it, or at least the specific thing you got. The impact teachers have on their students is the most rewarding part of their job. (It is not likely that they did it for the money.)

be like them

And finally, just do what they taught you. This is the true measure of a teacher’s impact, that you are not dangling your participles or losing your temper or overlooking people on the margins. They showed you how to act or feel or think.

It is one thing to remember a teacher fondly. It is a different and infinitely greater thing to have been transformed by what you learned. Because, as Jesus taught, “everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

Who do you find yourself trying to be like?

Share your story, and theirs, in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “3 ways to honor your mentors

  1. I found a lot of inspiration in this. Thank you for sharing! It is really making me sit back and be grateful for all the mentorship I have already recieved in my life, and to look forward to the mentors that I have yet to meet.

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