Mentoring Quotes Booklet Available as a Gift

Quotes are a valuable way to create value in mentoring. They can serve as a source of inspiration, an acknowledgment of value gained, a tool for clarifying ideas and act as a catalyst for reflection and learning.

Over the years, I have collected a variety of quotes which I originally used in workshops, training, and professional publications. Sometimes quotes lend credibility to ideas since many of the quotes come from well-known persons in history or contemporary society.

Quotes can also be used as a basis for discussion of ideas and meaning. I’ve also used the quotes as the basis for an experiential exercise with participants by asking a question about the quote such as ‘how might this relate to your experience?’ You may find that a quote reminds you of a story or anecdote. Maybe the quote has a special meaning for you. This curated e-book provides an opportunity for users to make notes or add reflections about the quotes to make them more useful in discussing mentoring or conducting training sessions.

To download the entire 22-page booklet: http://goo.gl/bhPX8k

If you find value in this booklet, please consider making a donation to Wounded Warriors Canada, a peer mentoring service for veterans, first responders and their families. Donations can be made here: https://woundedwarriors.ca/

All the best for the Holiday Season.

 

A Mentor Dies And His Influence Continues

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.28.32 PMI am saddened by the death of my friend and mentor. Our souls were intertwined from the start, but events in recent years broke our capacity to express what we meant to each other. We both longed for what we had been to each other, yet neither of us could find the path for a return.

Many others who were the glue between us, knew of the public reasons for our estrangement, but only he and I knew what really happened. Knowing the private reason or tolerating the public perception does not diminish my love for him. Nor does it reduce the impact he had on my life.

We could exchange ideas, thoughts, and feelings of a personal and professional nature all in the same sentence. Our life work shared the same DNA. When we worked on projects together, we both achieved greater heights than either of us could have ascended to alone.

We yearned for the same things. We held hands, we locked arms, and we laughed uproariously when we encountered common obstacles. Once when we discovered a memo that called us “a pair of axxholes,” we were more delighted than offended.

Our friendship, companionship, and ability to learn from each other was probably deeper and more intimate than most men are able to attain in their lifetime. I am grateful for what we had and I will always treasure everything that we were to each other.

The smile and twinkle are gone. The greeting and enthusiasm that set aglow the inner fire are now memories. A twist of fate allowed us to have time together before death claimed his body. Our conversation brought joy to both our spirits and the healing path emerged.

Death, we both discerned long ago, turns us all into philosophers. Tragedy requires us to reassess our relationship with the temporal world and the expanse of the universe. My mentor said, “Why wait for such trauma to occur? Why not help people know themselves in the world without having to gain such knowledge through tragic circumstance?”

He called this help “socio-dynamic” counselling. With a few simple principles, he launched a system that has influenced helping professionals around the world and has left a legacy of practitioners, researchers, and teachers.

His death, like his life, touches our most inner world. Despite our grief, our tears and our longing for him, we carry forward the larger question that was most dear to his being: “What is my place in the cosmos?” And within that question, we struggle with a more immediate enquiry: “What can I do to help?”

I cannot say what I will miss most. The suspenders? The unique clothing? The Moroccan chicken? The unwillingness to engage in chit-chat? The fine wines? The insights? The stories of ranch life? The garden oasis? The gatherings? The walks? The battles with the dragons? The challenge to engage? Doing your best? Living authentically? Inspiring writing? Emotional intelligence? Road trip snoring?

What we meant to each other, what we did for each other, and how we were to each other has left me with exceptional solace. I wish, however, that I could have said “I love you,” before only his soul could hear me. Oh, brother, where art thou? Are you yet again paving the way for my travels?

(This mentoring story is an excerpt from my book on mentoring, “Shaping the Future: 150+ Canadian Mentoring Relationships That Make Canada Great, Creative, Innovative, Productive, Successful and Welcoming.”  The book was written to coincide with the celebration Canada’s 150th Anniversary. It includes more than 150 examples of mentoring relationships from all walks of life in Canada including sports, history, leadership, the arts, entertainment, acting, Broadway, music, politics, and business. It also includes ideas about the key principles associated with mentoring; how mentoring and coaching are the same and different; illustrations of mentoring relationships from my own life (such as the story above) and what I learned from them; and examples of mentoring relationships experienced by well-known and lesser-known Canadians. To make it easier to find particular people and who mentored whom, I’ve included a name index. The book is available from Amazon.)

 

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Helping Children Help Each Other

PEERS3When students experience a worry, concern or frustration, they are more likely to turn to each other for help. But the others often do not know what to do to help even though they have a strong desire to aid their friends. K-8 trained and supervised peer helpers can provide the help needed for their peers to improve their mental health, reduce academic and social barriers, and find more value in school.

This project, run by Canada’s most experienced and longest running peer program leaders has the potential for reaching 439,611 students in 895 K-8 schools in British Columbia.

Help me increase the number of peer helpers in K-8 schools in this mailing campaign to provide peer helper recruiting and information posters to schools. Even if only 1% of students wind-up volunteering, that means that more than 4000 additional students will be helping their peers across the Province.

Each poster has a place for the individual school to place their own personalized contact information. The donated posters are valued at $5.00 each, but the mailing costs to schools, including a mailing tube and postal delivery, are about $12.00 per mailing. The funds raised by this campaign will be used to cover mailing costs for as many posters as we can mail out. All labour will be donated by Peer Resources.

Persons who donate more than $100.00 will be eligible to select any of Peer Resources’ mentoring and peer support e-books in appreciation for a donation.

10,000 Mentoring Relationships Detailed in the Mentoring Hall of Fame

HallofFame3We reached a milestone in our collection of famous mentoring relationships in our curated collection known as The Mentoring Hall of Fame.

The list of mentor pairs was compiled by Rey Carr from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. Mentor pairs portrayed in fiction or movies are also included.

Pairings are divided into ten general categories. In most cases, mentors and their partners could be included in the same category. However, where a mentor and partner are from different career or life areas, the pairing has been placed in the partner’s category. (A few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are included at various places in the listings.)

The Categories include:

  • Actors, Comedians, Producers, and Directors (Stage, Screen, and TV
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in motion pictures and television
  • Musicians, Songwriters, and Singers
  • Classical and Broadway Musicians, Composers, Conductors, Ballet, and Modern Dancers
  • Fashion, Media, and Celebrities
  • Artists, Writers, Photographers, Publishers, Novelists, Poets
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in print (novels stories, fiction)
  • Sports Figures, Athletes, and Coaches
  • Historical, Political, Spiritual and Civic Leaders
  • Business, Industry, Education, Science, and Medical Leaders

Some of the latest additions:

American film icon and director Clint Eastwood was a mentor to American director, screenwriter, and producer Michael Cimino (1939-2016); and is a mentor to Canadian film director Stephen Campanelli.

Minnesota Twins outfielder and baseball Hall of Fame member Kirby Puckett (1960-2006) is a mentor to Arkansas-born former professional baseball fielder Torii Hunter. He was remembered by one of the many people he mentored as a person who “Let us know we can pursue anything that we want to as long as we work hard.”

American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver (1938-1988) considered his mentor to be American novelist, university professor and literary critic John Gardner  (1933-1982).

In Meg Wolitizer’s 2018 novel, The Female Persuasion, feminist Faith Frank is a mentor to college student Greer Kadetsky.

Kentucky-born American actor, director, activist and philanthropist George Clooney is a mentor to Boston-born American actor, director, producer and screenwriter John Krasinski.

Terrace, British Columbia-born Canadian choreographer, and dancer Crystal Pite is a mentor to award-winning Puerto Rico-born American dancer and choreographer Bryan Arias.

Former Vietnamese Prime Minister and economist Phan Van Khai (1933-2018), who was the country’s first post-American War in Vietnam leader, was mentored by Vietnamese politician, former Prime Minister of Vietnam and revolutionary veteran soldier in the war against the French colonists and American forces, Vo Van Kiet (1922-2008).

Texas-born American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis (1921-2010) was a mentor to jazz guitarist Emily Remler (1957-1990).

British educator and social entrepreneur Sir Cyril Taylor (1935-2018) was described as a “true mentor” to many who worked with him. Sir Cyril considered Jimmy Coronna, the travel director of the American Institute for Foreign Study, as his mentor.

The Power of Peers Reaches Across the Globe

largeMy heart soared when I saw the photos of youth participating in the “March for Our Lives”. My lifelong professional and personal mission has been to educate and support youth to learn how to help, not hurt, each other. And here they were showing how they can work together to bring changes in a world thirsty for healing, eager for safety, and determined to find hope.

The horror of gun violence and school shootings in the USA was clearly the tipping point to generate such massive youth involvement in peaceful protests. I think the incredible cooperation between youth from all over the country came about in part because of their experience and knowledge of the power of peer support.

For more than 45 years my colleagues in the USA, through the National Association of Peer Program Professionals and in Canada through Peer Resources, have been training teachers, counsellors, and other school, college and university personnel to establish peer programs in their institutions.

Virtually every student has been enrolled in a school where peer helping was a significant service in a range of ways to provide support for students. Often students who knew about or participated in peer-based services as elementary students demanded or started such services when they were in high school or entered college. Student peer helpers in high school expected such services to continue to be available at their college or university.

While the type of peer service on offer differed from place to place, the ambiance and foundation that peers helping peers was the most powerful influence, whether in a formal or informal way, became known as the most potent force in the lives of young people.

Unlike the myths associated with “peer pressure” and its negative connotations, most young people have realized that peer support or positive peer pressure is a force that could be used to manage, cope with, or transcend many of the challenges associated with youth.

The massive numbers associated with the “March for Our Lives;” the inspiring speeches given by student leaders and participants, the thrilling feeling of being part of something much larger while not losing your own identity, and power of hope generated by being with and for each other independent of differences are outcomes we dreamed about back in 1970 when we initiated the first peer trainings in Canada and the USA.

Engage Children as Peer Helpers

PEERS2.JPGI’m hoping to raise enough donations to send a set of peer helper recruiting posters to K-8 schools in Canada. I want to send these posters at no cost to schools since teachers, parents, and students are already being asked to pay for so many needed services. To make this happen, we’ve set a goal of $5500 to pay for the mailing costs (mail tubes and postal charges). The posters and the labour are all being donated by Peer Resources.

I’m sure that as children learn they can become peer helpers and they can turn to peer helpers to assist them with practical dilemmas and be referred to professionals through a trusted source, we will be able to help children learn the value of helping, not hurting, each other.

Donations can be made anonymously, and donations over $100 are eligible to receive any of our peer and mentor e-books at no cost. Once a donation is made, we will contact the donor to express appreciation and let him or her know how to access the catalogue of free e-books.

Donation page: www.youcaring.com/peerhelpingposters

Natural Peer Mentoring

baseball-game12The playoffs to determine the British Columbia Little League team and the eventual team to represent Canada in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania took place in Victoria, BC a few weeks ago. This kind of organized and structured sport was quite different from the typical games I played as a kid, and I was eager to watch these youngsters play in such high stakes games.

When I arrived at the ballpark, I was flooded with feelings and memories from long ago. I had played baseball from the beginning of elementary school through university graduation. At one time I planned on being a professional baseball player. My reverie reconnected me with the role that peers played during these early years. I remembered that from dawn to dusk my friends and I spent virtually all our free time playing a variety of sports, but mostly baseball. We organized our own teams; we were responsible for our own equipment and for transporting ourselves to the parks where we would be the visiting team. On a daily basis we “chose up sides.” Everyone knew who the best players were, but the role of “chooser” rotated on a regular basis so that eventually everyone had an opportunity to be the chooser and chosen. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

We also adjusted the rules to maintain equity and compensate for our own growing physical abilities. For example, I remember the 20-foot high cyclone fence 210 feet from home plate in right field. When we were little kids, if you could hit it over that fence, it was a home run, and nobody minded the time it took to get the ball and bring it back. As a matter of fact, sometimes we would all search for the ball and maybe stop off at the store for candy or baseball cards. As we got older and stronger, we changed the rule so that hitting the ball over the fence was an out. Everybody wanted to keep the rhythm of the game going, and not spend time chasing the ball down the street. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

I remember the thrill of victory, our cheering each other, and deciding where or what we would do to celebrate. I remember the despair of defeat and the temporary nature of our gloom, the silent walks or public bus ride home, or the desire to blame somebody else for the loss. Yet the next day, everyone emerged ready to practice, chose up sides, and figure out what we learned from our previous game. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

I lived in a dense urban area: a mixture of black, white, Latino and Asian families. A lot of kids went to private or parochial schools, I walked 15 blocks to my public elementary school. From time to time new kids would move into the neighbourhood. They would drift down to the park, maybe even carrying a bat or a baseball glove. Somebody would always ask them if they wanted to join in the game or wait for the next choose-up. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Although the park had adult directors (physical education students from a local university), and they would sometimes coach us and help us arrange to play other teams, we were pretty much left unsupervised by adults. We often played pranks and practical jokes on each other, destroyed or defaced property, or got into fights, and now and then said some mean or hurtful things to one another. But apologies, shaking hands, repairing damage and resolving disputes were equally as common. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Kids today are growing up in the most highly organized society imaginable. Opportunities for youth to impact their environment or determine things for themselves are shrinking. Safe play areas are important, but these areas are not designed to be changed by kids; instead, they are designed to resist change. Adult organized activities tend to limit opportunities for kids to learn how to make their own assessments of equity, mutuality, and the true purpose of rules.

Times have changed. When I was a kid, there were only two things my parents were concerned about: things that would “poke my eye out,” and things I might do to “break my neck.” Opportunities for spontaneous play and peer interaction, the kind where kids can develop their own guiding principles, are on the decline. Increasing concern for the necessary physical safety of kids limits the time kids have to be on their own, travel freely into other neighbourhoods or receive spontaneous mentoring from a variety of adults.

Kids have fewer occasions where they can develop care and concern skills and behaviours. Social programs organized by adults have emerged to provide these skills, yet the programs are typically “deficiency” oriented. Rather than trying to bring out the “dormant wisdom,” which helps young people reconnect with their inherent needs for fairness, belonging, friendship, and fun, social skill oriented programs assume that kids are uneducated or ignorant and in need of adult-driven instruction.

Peer group interaction, a naturally occurring and powerful phenomenon, has been organized by adults through the use of peer helpers. Paradoxically, some of these organized programs may reduce the natural support peers provide. I worry that the introduction of the counselling skill and theory approaches as a basis for peer helping may lead peer helpers to learn accepted techniques, rather than build on their inherent wisdom and desire to help others. I worry that the increased acceptance of peer helping by professional helpers will be accompanied by a more rigid peer training curriculum dictated by professional interests. I worry that the success of peer helping in its present form may decrease the involvement of future volunteer peer helpers in making a variety of peer program decisions.

I know that my worries have been reduced by the many exceptional peer program leaders I have met over the years and by my own observations of a multitude of exemplary peer programs. Yet as peer mentor programs expand to community organizations, the workplace, and other age groups, variations are bound to occur which lose the connection with the foundations of peer work. Nobody told us to do this, it’s just the natural thing to do.

And, if you were wondering, a Little League team from White Rock, British Columbia became Team Canada. They represented Canada in the International side of the Little League World Series. As of this writing, they have a good chance to play an American team in the World Series championship game.

Nothing About Us Without Us

first-nations-group2010The recent youth suicides within Indigenous communities in northern Ontario are tragic and heartbreaking. As often happens when these dramatic events occur, community leaders, parents, teachers, and mental health agencies are often stunned, shocked and puzzled about what to do.

A typical reaction is to provide additional funding for existing mental health services and to fund other resources that are often associated with youth suicide such as poverty, hopelessness, physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding and low levels of education.

Less likely to rise to the top of the priority list are peer programs where trained and supervised youth take an active role in helping other youth to deal with despair, hopelessness, fear, and trauma.

Peer-led interventions are more likely to positively influence the youth culture, speed-up the help and connection youth might need to professional services, connect troubled youth to safe, caring and compassionate peers, and provide the empowerment youth experience from being listened to, understood, acknowledged and supported.

The Province of Ontario is no strangerto evidence-based peer programs. For many years in the past, peer program leaders and consultants like Rey Carr, Diane Taub, Michael Peirce, Wayne Townsend, and Ron Jorgenson trained student peer mentors and facilitated train-the-trainer peer workshops for community leaders in that province (as well as every province and territory in Canada).

In addition, from 1990–1993, our group of trainers plus a dozen others created a national, Canada-wide program, known as “The National Stay-in-School Initiative,” that resulted in more than 30,000 peer mentors being connected to 100,000 students across the country.

Despite the hundreds of trained adult personnel and the thousands of students trained as peer helpers (many of whom have gone on to universities and colleges where they continued to participate in peer-led services) in Ontario, there are many rural communities that have yet to implement a peer-based service for youth.

I’d like to encourage readers of this SpiritMentor blog, particularly the Canadian readers, to write letters-to-the-editor or contact your MP and let them know that peer-led programs are not just add-ons, but are necessary elements to change peer culture to one of healthy, positive support and encouragement so that allyouth can live out their dreams rather than have their dreams thwarted by negative peer pressure and conditions over which they have little control.

Evolutionary Peer Mentoring: A Growth Group for Seniors

BreakfastOnce a week for the past eight years a group of us meet for breakfast and discuss a variety of topics. What started as a one-time breakfast meeting with former workplace colleagues to catch up on retirement progress, has evolved into a continuing peer mentoring activity that relies on an unusual structure to manage engagement.

In her article, Group Mentoring: Strategies for Success, Lois Zachary (2011) identified peer group mentoring as one of the three most commonly employed models for achieving learning goals. Our group meets all of the criteria that she identified as associated with peer mentoring, including (1) having similar interests or needs; (2) setting our own agenda; (3) engaging in self-management and self-direction; (4) managing the focus of the discussion to make sure all members’ needs are met; and (5) ensuring that each group member benefits from the knowledge, expertise, and experience of the other group members.

What’s surprising or unusual, however, about our peer mentoring group is that we have yet to discuss, consciously review, or deliberately implement any of the five criteria Dr. Zachary identified. In other words, we didn’t review options and select one that we preferred. Instead, our structure and process have evolved over time. They may continue to change, but both seem to have been achieved by what can best be called a ‘happy accident.’

Using the happy accident approach for developing a peer group meeting structure may not be suitable for everyone. It can severely test the patience of those who prefer a certain degree of structure, a set agenda, or an urge to ‘get things done.’

As an experienced group leader in other contexts, I’m (happily) surprised that this peer mentoring group has been so successful, despite violating some of the standard principles associated with effective group management. For example, a lower level of structure in most groups typically leads to low levels of participation or inconsistent engagement by various members of the group. In our group, participation is equally distributed. Each member introduces topics; some members bring materials or resources to the group to share with the others, and everyone in the group contributes to every discussion (whether they know anything about it or not).

A low structure can also make it easier for some group members to dominate discussion or process in a way the meets their needs only. While the specific interests of a particular group member may serve as a topic discussion starter, the person who initiated the topic typically asks each of the other group members for their reactions or ideas about that topic. Group members also respond with their own viewpoint, whether they are specifically asked or not. Responsibility for leadership is distributed evenly among all group members.

Another problem that can lead to difficulties in groups is the degree to which the group has established a verbalized consensus on the group’s purpose. Many groups have no way of determining the degree to which they are achieving their purpose or desired results without an overall objective. This lack of clarity typically leads to low engagement, inconsistent attendance, or dropping out completely.

Although we’ve never spoken directly about our purpose, the fact that we have been meeting consistently for eight years (with time out during certain months for holidays), indicates that the model we have developed is satisfying, effective, and successful.

The Mindfulness Process

Our current way of interacting with each other has been repeated enough times that it is possible to describe some of the elements that have contributed to the success of our peer mentoring group. If I had to come up with one term or phrase that would characterize our meetings, I would use the term ‘mindfulness.’ Our interactions seem to (1) show conscious awareness or willingness to explore our current thoughts, feelings, and opinions; (2) seek alternative views or be open and curious about the views of others; and (3) resist any tendency toward judgment and instead focus on acceptance; and (4) be willing to include a sense of presence and authenticity.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (2009) has written extensively about mindfulness and the impact it has on stress reduction, and Peer Resources Network member Doug Silsbee (2010) has centered mindfulness as a key to successful coaching interactions. While we did not purposely establish a mindfulness perspective or process in our group, it has evolved in a way to be our most consistent way of interacting with each other.

 

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”

~ Jimmy Carter ~

 

Bring it Up

While variations occur in any meeting, here are the most consistent mindfulness elements of our peer group dialogue.

Many of our discussions have to do with the circumstances associated with aging, health, exercise, mood, and medical or alternative treatments. These topics probably have more to do with the fact that all the group members are over 65. But many discussions are initiated around ideas that come from books we’re reading, current events, things we’ve discovered online, or past experiences.

Regardless of the topic, the initiator typically takes some time to share, explain or expand on the topic, and, if appropriate, bring up any inner dialogue and feelings about it. Sometimes this can lead to catastrophizing, making it seem like disaster is imminent or immense. Typically when this happens it is also followed by what might be considered a creative awareness, where the current topic seems related to some past experience, fear or action.

Whatever path the initiator takes the topic, there is a pause where that person asks the other group members for their reaction, assessment, or comment.

Catch and Release

At this point, various group members express their understanding of or experience with the topic. This may include seeking clarity, sharing a similar experience, or drawing upon their own wisdom or learning.

The intention is to acknowledge the content, feelings, and perspective of the initiator, while at the same time releasing the initiator from having to hold on to negative or stressful feelings, particularly those that facilitate catastrophizing or feeling alone.

Not all topics feature emotional content. Some are more idea- or intellectually- centered. These are often discussed with the intention of focusing on meaning-making questions or comments such as ‘What do you make of that?’ or ‘This is what I gained from it when it happened to me.’

Sometimes group members share what action they have taken when faced with a similar circumstance. However, we are not what I would consider a ‘result/ action’ oriented group. That is, there doesn’t appear to be a drive on any group member’s part to figure out what to do about something. This doesn’t prevent members from asking for advice or ideas, and this often becomes a way to draw upon the wisdom and experience of group members.

Bring it In

More than 60 years ago I had a high school coach who at the end of each practice would say, “Okay fellas, bring it in.” That was the signal that the physical practice was over and we were to gather in a group around the coach. The coach would then provide feedback or comments to the players on what he observed that day, and he would encourage us to express our gratitude to other players for what we were experiencing that day.

This wasn’t always easy as some of the conflicts between us led to some nasty, snarky or sarcastic ways of doing what the coach asked us to do. At the same time, when another player authentically expressed gratitude or appreciation, it had a powerful and lasting impact.

That early experience had such a profound impact on me that I’ve carried the experience through into my personal and professional life. Using it as part of the peer mentoring group seemed like a natural and useful thing to do. Fortunately, it’s contagious. I only tried it a few times before it became a fairly common aspect of the interactions for all of us within our group. We often nish our meetings or topic discussions with a type of ‘bring it in’ activity. It’s not so much a formal procedure as it is a way to help each other replace negative thoughts or feelings with things we appreciate or are grateful for. These more personal comments to each other also allow us to express our compassion and support for each other.

Not all our group meetings follow the pattern of mindfulness, nor does each meeting always include the three elements described above. Sometimes our focus is on recalling a past event or experience, sharing stories about family adventures, agreeing that our former workplace was a better organization when we worked there or telling jokes or humourous anecdotes. I’m convinced that the flexibility in both agenda-setting and how we manage the discussion as well as the personal meaning, knowledge, and support we gain from and give to each other is the glue that has attracted us to continue to meet with each other on a regular basis.

The size and consistency of our group also matter. For the most part, there are four of us, sometimes five; and from time-to-time one of the members brings a guest. While we might be able to accomplish mindfulness with more members, a larger group might lead to inconsistent attendance and less opportunity for follow- up, and less likelihood or willingness to tune-in to our way of being with each other.

Peer mentoring, particularly for small groups of older members of a society, go far back in history. The Knights of the Roundtable, Tribal Councils, Elder Chiefs, and other forms of ancient governing practices were all examples of peer mentoring.

Peer mentoring for seniors can be a powerful way to stimulate brain functioning and learning, meet social connection needs, and enable seniors to continue to grow and develop. Could others use our system? Possibly, but the key would be how to develop a mindfulness approach that would work for that particular group. From our experience, we stumbled into it by happy accident. There are many paths to a mindful or fulfillling way to participate in peer mentoring. We’re grateful we found ours.

References

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009). Letting everything become your teacher: 100 lessons in mindfulness. New York: Dell Publishing.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2006). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.

Silsbee, D. (2010). The mindful coach. Seven roles for facilitating leader development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zachary, L. (2011). Group mentoring: Strategies for success. Peer Bulletin, 205, 12-14.

 

FN-Group“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation. Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence to the speech-maker and his own moment of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regard for the rule that, “thought comes before speech.”

~ Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939) ~

Ogala Sioux Chief

Bringing Out Our Inner Life

Peer Counsellor Workbook CoverWhen the first edition of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul was published in 1997, I was delighted that an excerpt from one of Peer Resources’ books (The Peer Helper’s Workbook) as well as contact details for our organization were included in this soon-to-be a best-selling book.

But the inclusion of our toll-free number as part of our contact details had unexpected consequences. Perhaps because Peer Resources had the only telephone number listed in that edition, we received many calls and letters from young people wanting to know how they could submit a story for the Chicken Soup series. Some of the callers and writers, however, just wanted someone to talk to about a life circumstance that was unbearable or troubling.

phone_listeningOne of these calls, from a 14-year old youth, started out as a request for information about how to deal with peer pressure. Within a few minutes, the story shifted dramatically from a focus on peers to a deep sense of helplessness and depression about communicating his worries and anxieties to his parents. Both parents, according to the caller, believed he should be able to handle his peers in an effective way and he should be able to stand up for himself. To do any less meant that he was incompetent and worthless.

Whether his parents actually held these views is less important than his perception that they did. He believed his parents did not understand him. He had given up seeing them as a resource to help him, and he was lost as to what do about his situation.

What he had tried was getting him into trouble at school, reducing his attention to school work, and contributing to rage toward his peers. He felt angry, hurt, and abandoned.

How many young people can tell a similar story? Feeling cut-off with no one who understands. Not knowing who to turn to for help. Giving up and burying their feelings. Turning fears into rage.

How often has this experience led a young person to suicide or violence toward others? How many times in the aftermath of a tragedy do we hear phrases such as “he was just a quiet person,” or “I would have never thought he/she could do this,” or “we thought he/she was just weird.”

How many young people are torn between their secret inner life and what they show on the outside?

The teen who called us was developing a secret inner life. A life that would not only be hidden from his parents and his peers, but might eventually become hidden from his own awareness.

We all have an inner life. The danger is when we become cut off from our inner world and do not have the tools or support to restore this connection. This disconnection severely hampers our emotional intelligence and reduces our ability to learn from life experiences. The bad news is that adults who have experienced such disconnection when they were young not only have difficulty recognizing or accepting such circumstances in their children, but their own arrested development prevents them from knowing how to help their children overcome these circumstances.

The good news is these situations can be identified, remedied, and prevented. Unfortunately, society in general, and the media and professionals in particular, often contribute to this disconnection. When a tragedy happens, a common cycle is initiated. Virtually everyone will respond with horror, shock, disbelief, and anguish.

Then there will be a search for blame. This search will focus on the superficial: the Internet, social media, movies, television, guns, bad parents or bad kids. The private and personal grief of friends and family will be made public. An emphasis will be placed on photographs, videos, and outward appearances. Experts will talk about a violent society or trends occurring in society that precipitate or predict such violence.

When the perpetrators are identified or put on trial, the focus will shift toward demonizing their motives and at the same time rationalizing their actions as victims of some syndrome or category of disease. The legal system will emphasize determining guilt and punishment. The cycle will include additional public funding directed towards violence prevention in the form of a better connection between police and schools; more anti-violence lectures; games and curriculum for youth; longer prison sentences for offenders; restrictions on weapons; better monitoring of or restrictions on Internet use, movies, television, or music.

When tragic events occur, the search for blame seems like the correct thing to do.

After all, we don’t want those events to be repeated. But what if such a search actually contributes to the problem rather than reduces its future likelihood? What if the assignment of blame is a substitute for looking inside ourselves to determine how we have contributed to the situation? What if blame is just another way of passing judgment and not really listening and understanding? Does the assignment of blame increase or decrease that area within ourselves that is hidden from view?

The most important question to ask is whether young people in our communities will actually find others in their lives who are willing to listen and understand.

What can we do to help young people access their inner selves? What can we do to demonstrate respect to all young people regardless of their appearance, background, or circumstances?

Answers to these questions are readily available. Here are some samples. Be a mentor. Be a coach. Make sure your schools have peer support programs.

When talking to a young person, listen more than you talk. Don’t interrupt. Practice

patience. Suspend judgment. Show respect by summarizing what has been said. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Share your life story. Talk about what has meaning for you and how that came about. Ask about dreams, hopes, and goals. Be curious. Ask whether suggestions might help. Be clear about expectations. Know your own hot buttons. Leave the impression your door is open for further conversation. And again: listen more than you talk.

I wish I could share the outcome of my discussion with the 14-year old described above. After we had discussed possible options that were available in his community, he had to hang up the phone abruptly because one of his parents just came home.

References

Canfield, J., Hanson, M.V., Kirberger, K. & Claspy, M. (1997). Chicken soup for the teenage soul. Deerfield Beach, Florida: HCI Teens.

Roberts, G. (1994). The peer helper’s workbook. Victoria, BC: Peer Systems Consulting Group, Inc. (Available from Peer Resources)

We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open.

~ Harry Edwards (1893-1976) ~ British spiritual healer