A Greenhorn Community Mentor

When I first met [Mr E] I was still pretty green, and I must admit it was a bit terrifying to be in his presence. I had read the notes and the various medical situations he had been in and was unsure about what to expect.

Our first interaction was a list of expletives (many of which I hadn’t heard since my youth), because the wind had blown an envelope off his desk. I didn’t quite know what to do so I did nothing, which in the end, more by luck than judgment, turned out to be the right thing to do.

Now I am not looking to take all the credit here because I was shadowing a work colleague on that first visit and they had been brilliant in helping me understand the man behind the swear words, so it was very easy to look past the situation and see the human being in front of me.

As time went on, we learned to trust each other. I wasn’t judging him for something he couldn’t help, and he wasn’t judging me as someone who was paid to be there. Slowly we developed a relationship, and within that, we started to talk about our histories, our dreams, our passions and our dislikes. I realised that being a community mentor was less about helping someone and more about building a relationship. Within this relationship were possibilities that weren’t there before. With that trust, suddenly tough conversations became easier, difficult subjects could be broached, and ways to make their life just a little better could be explored.

I soon realised [Mr E] had actually enriched my life as much as I hoped I enriched his. Instead of walking past someone who was having a meltdown in the supermarket, I recognised a need rather than a deficit. When I saw someone with a physical disability, I saw them as a person, not as a disabled person. These realisations are the real salary I am paid. Nothing is more valued than empathy and understanding, and nothing is better than feeling good about yourself.

Written by Stu Doren - Community Mentor