In memory of a mentor

A friend of mine died recently, and her memorial service is next week. Anne’s death hit me harder than I thought it would, and I’m glad it did, actually. It reminded me of how wonderful she was, and how important she was to me at an important stage of my life: my young adulthood.

After graduating from college, I moved to Rochester, New York, where I knew exactly two people. I didn’t have a job or a car or even much of a plan. But I headed out to Rochester where a friend was going to start seminary and stumbled into a job and a church.

As with many Episcopal churches, there weren’t a lot of young folk there. (I remember at my first coffee hour, someone asked in all seriousness, “Do you babysit?”) But I got recruited for the choir and, since I had no car, Anne, who lived near my apartment and also sang in the choir, offered to give me a ride to rehearsals.

Every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, she would pick me up in her little white Honda hatchback and we’d drive to rehearsals. It was maybe a five-minute drive. But all of those 5 minute drives added up to hours and hours of conversation. Mostly about little things, this and that, books we liked, stuff going on at church, people we’d encountered in our daily lives, what was going on at home. Anne’s intelligent, warm, funny, gracious spirit shone through everything she said, no matter how mundane.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was soaking it up, basking in the pleasure of being able to talk with this wonderful person. About nothing in particular. About this and that. I remember very few of these conversations specifically, but they live in my mind as a warm quilt of acceptance, of being taken seriously as an adult.

I suspect youth mentors often feel pressure to say something profound, to ask deep questions or share important pronouncements in scheduled meetings of Very Deep Discussions. But mentoring, as I found with Anne, is about small things adding up over time.