There were about twenty of us, crammed into a single Israeli hotel room. It was uncomfortably warm, though the AC was on; a slight stifling feeling surrounded us, and knees brushed knees, as we squirmed to keep our personal space. Despite this, the feeling inside my chest was warm, like coming home after a long day, as I watched the teenagers, some older, some younger, but all wonderful, share their experiences.
In the corner of the room, closest to the exit, was a 15-year-old boy, a first timer to our steadily growing devotions group; unfortunately, it would be our last time coming together before flying back to Vancouver, but I was glad for the times we had anyway. Though this boy (let’s call him Harry) was only a few months younger than me, I couldn’t help but feel a slight protective feeling over him. Perhaps it was a newfound maternal instinct somehow awakened in me, but I had invited Harry to come to our final devotions night.
The invitation went something like this:
I approached a group of boys sitting at dinner, and said, “Devos tonight at 8:45pm in room 830 if you guys want to come. Remember, that’s 8:45pm at room 830.”
“Why can’t it be 8:30 at room 830?” one of them asked.
“Because that would be too easy,” I said plainly. “Come if you guys want to, but don’t feel pressured to.”
Sitting near the end of the table was Harry and another grade 10 boy (let’s call him Jonathan). I immediately set my sights on them; Jonathan would go, as he always went, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to Harry, despite spending two weeks with him.
“You gonna come, Harry?”
He looked at me, then looked at his plate, a sheepish smile on his face. “Not sure. Maybe?”
“You better come,” I said jokingly. I couldn’t tell if the slight fear on his face was real or not. “Like no pressure or anything, but you better come. Like no pressure, but I expect you to be there.”
The joke made him more comfortable, and I could visibly see his shoulders relax. “What?” he protested. “But I don’t really know anyone.”
“Well, you can meet people.” I turned to leave, but I looked over my shoulder to give one last shout to Harry. “I better see you up there!”
“Would anyone else like to share?” I asked. “About what you want to change or bring back home from Israel.”
I was surprised when Harry hesitantly raised his hand. I nodded encouragingly.
“I don’t normally speak a lot, and I was really nervous about coming here tonight.” He spoke about his shyness, how it was difficult to be connected to the community because of it. “I’m grateful to the people who forced me to come, because I wouldn’t have done this by myself.”
“I said no pressure!” I laughed.
His sheepish smile grew larger, and I continued to listen to him with a bubble of pride in my chest.
I didn’t know Harry that well. I still don’t, if I’m honest. But we’ve grown from passing glances in the hallway to a brief hello and smile. Mentorship is about relationship, investing in a person by encouragement and listening. I’m not Harry’s mentor; I don’t know him well enough. But I’m beginning to understand what it means to be one, and how rewarding it can be. It takes courage on both parts; one side has to reach out, and the other has to respond.
God is a relational God. It only makes sense that wisdom and guidance comes often from relational experiences as well. Harry is a fantastic person, and I had the privilege of encouraging him, even if it was only for a few days. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that privilege again someday.
April 21, 2017