In June of 2009 I did p90x. It was a good run. By the time the dust settled, I’d dropped 35 pounds reintroduced myself to swimming and even picked up tennis and running. One day while at the tennis courts I ended up talking to a guy I was sharing the single player wall with. We decided to volley and “hit a few.” After about 45 min he told me he had to go because he had to prepare for a workshop in the morning. Upon further inquiry he told me that he was a member of the DC chapter of Concerned Black Men and that he was the Chairman of it’s Just Say Yes Mentoring program. Before he left we exchanged phone numbers and he invited me to check out the workshop.
I was raised on service. Be it helping a friend move, tutoring, or raising money for a cause, service is my thing, and I’m good at it. I’m not bragging, no not even humble bragging on the low. Here’s why. Truth be told, I served because it makes me feel valuable, important even. The idea of making a difference may mean more to me as the person who made the difference than the difference that was made. It was just as much for my own ego as it was for whatever cause I was serving. I never mentored though, primarily because I never thought I had anything to offer a mentee. Also, because kids are sharp, and I thought they’d see me as a fraud.
Despite much trepidation, I decided to visit the program. Immediately I was hooked; the boy’s energy and spirit was infectious. Fast forward 3 years, I’m still mentoring. The tennis player who recruited me retired and I replaced him as the program chair. For the record, I still don’t know what I have to offer the boys but my approach to service has changed completely.
When you have a shotgun approach to service, serving homeless person a meal here, painting a school there, it almost doesn’t matter why you’re doing it. Be it giving back to your alma mater or court ordered, it’s your impact, not your interest that matters most. Not true though when dealing with kids. Children, especially those who’ve been let down care much more about protecting themselves from future disappointment than for whatever you think you’re giving them. Mentoring has forced me to be introspective not just about what I’m doing, but also, why I’m doing it. I mentor for two reasons.
1. When I was a kid, I had a mentor. He took me to the only NFL game I ever been to (I’ve been a Raider fan since that day). For Christmas, he gave me a wallet. I remember because I was visibly disappointed when I opened it to find no cash in it. I don’t remember my mentors name. I never told him thank you, and I’m sure if he even remembers me, he probably feels like he failed to get through to me. I’ve reconciled that I’ll never be able to tell my mentor thanks for trying and that the things we talked about stuck even though it never appeared that I was listening, instead I’ll just have to pay it forward.
2. Reason #2 is selfish; her name is Ella. While I don’t expect I’ll mentor any of my daughter’s future suitors, but if they can make the world a little better, maybe the guys who come (to my house and sit on my couch and talk to me at length) seeking to date my daughter will be a little less jaded about the world. It’s a long shot, but sadly, the best one I’ve got.
I’ve gone way too long to get to what I thought would be a simple analogy, but here it is. My approach to fitness has been similar to my approach to service: sporadic, varied, un-altruistic, and uncommitted. Here to, I took a long introspective look. My current goal isn’t to finish 90 days of workouts, or to get to a certain weight (though tools and targets are important to determine your progress and direction), but I want to change the way I live. By making those changes, in time I’ll reach the same targets I had a few years ago, but I
believe know that this time, by seeking a more holistic, long-term approach, my results will be more satisfying. At least that’s the plan.