The holidays are a very interesting time for mentors in the Seedling Mentoring Program.
The children in the program come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances and the only thing they all have in common is the challenges that come with having an incarcerated parent.
Seedling Mentoring does a great job of training and preparing us to talk with our young friends without ever making them feel uncomfortable or ashamed of their situations, whatever they may be. We are there to be an adult friend, someone who knows them and cares enough to show up every week to listen, laugh, play, read, and sometimes to just hold space for them to talk about things that they may not feel like they can share with just anyone.
It is a gift and a privilege.
When holidays roll around, Seedling training warns us not to give too much, even though we may have that urge. Many of our kids live in poverty. Home may be shared with another family…or two…or might even be something we wouldn’t normally think of as a home. Presents may be hard to come by, or may not exist at all. We never want to eclipse what the caregiver for our mentee can do. That relationship is the most important of all to our little friend and our job is to nurture all of the supports in their young lives.
So, we keep our gifts under $10-15 in value, and many of us give books that we think they will enjoy for years to come.
Occasionally, and particularly as they grow up with us in their life, they may give us a gift.
Whatever it is, be incredibly grateful that they have taken the time and effort to do this for you! It is usually not an easy thing to make or buy something, and your mentee has really invested in this gift for you.
This year, when I arrived at Mena’s school, she thrust a big gift bag in my hands and said, “Hold on to this while I get my lunch. But DON’T OPEN IT! I want to see your face when you open it!” She scampered down the hall and I marveled at this little, generous heart that had thought to do something for me.
When she got back, she opened my gift to her with all of the traditions we have developed over four years. (Reading the card out loud, enjoying the pictures of my daughter’s golden doodle in his holiday costumes, slowly starting to unwrap and then diving in like a wild little terrier with wrapping paper flying everywhere!) Then she grinned from ear to ear and said, “Your turn!!”
I opened the bag to see a long box wrapped in tissue paper. I pulled it out and started carefully unwrapping it, but Mena encouraged me to unwrap like she did. “Go crazy,” she said! So I dove into the wrapping tissue, too.
Mena gave me a giant candy cane. She said she got her mom to take her to the Dollar Store because she wanted to give me something special. I had tears in my eyes and we hugged multiple times. She was so excited that I liked it, and that I liked her homemade tag, too.
It was a special time for us, and I find myself feeling so grateful to have this young friend in my life, who obviously feels about me the way I feel about her. Mentoring with Seedling has enhanced my life in many ways, and I encourage you to think about making mentoring (or financially supporting mentoring) part of your life. It’s a win-win.
Happy Holidays, and may your New Year be blessed.