481. Mentors

I’ve referred to a few people as my mentors. Caleb Gattegno, I know, is one of them. Pete Seeger is another. The more I master humility (a virtue that doesn’t come easily to me), the more mentors I have. Some of the teachers I work with are becoming my mentors. I e-mail my articles to some of my mentors. It turns out that many people have much to teach me if I’m only ready to learn. And in some ways, I’m more ready than I used to be. It turns out that the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know. Trite, but true.
Soon, I may be interviewed by someone who writes for a newspaper, and by someone else who has a radio program. A bunch of friends are doing a concert of songs I’ve written, and judging from the press release they’ve put together, I think I’m supposed to come across as a wise person. That’s all right. I think I’ll enjoy doing that. Besides, maybe by now I’ve sometimes made it through “witty” and “clever” to “wise.” Maybe it’s not just a role for me to play. I don’t know. Being wise is a heavy responsibility, but I’m not so busy now.
The first mentor I had that I can think of was Jimmy Dodd, on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Near the end of the show, he sometimes gave a little sermon about a proverb, and I often took it to heart. He was telling the young TV audience how to live life in a way that would make us better Mouseketeers. I wasn’t as fanatic a devotee of Jimmy and the mouse as some of the younger kids; I didn’t even send away for a pair of ears. But I did take Jimmy’s words seriously.
Recently, I watched a rerun of “The Mickey Mouse Club” on cable television. At the end, Jimmy Dodd gave his sermon, and I wasn’t at all moved by it. I know his words weren’t meant to impress an adult in 1997, but I couldn’t imagine how I could ever have been impressed by them. I guess I’ve come a long way. But I’ll bet children are still learning from media mentors who are saying mediocre things in wise tones of voice. And that’s okay, I guess. Sometimes, a stitch in time really does save nine, and people who live in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones. Neither should anyone else. What is trite to one person may be new and insightful to another.
So far, my mentors are mostly about my age or older, but as I get older, I’m finding more and more mentors who are younger than I am. I don’t think I’ll ever consider any children to be mentors; they’ve got a lot to learn, and I’ve got a lot I want to teach them. I’ll learn from them, but I probably won’t learn lots of life- changing things from any one child. Children do grow up, though, so maybe some of them will be my mentors later. We’ll see.

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