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  • Writer's pictureJoe Mario

What mentorship means to me-Chris Patterson

Since moving to Connecticut and meeting Joe in early 2020, I've had the opportunity to think and talk with him about one of the most important gifts we experience throughout our lives. I'm talking about using one's own knowledge and experience to help another person make their way through the world. In a word, I'm talking about mentorship. Working side by side with Joe has given me the opportunity to consider this gift quite a bit and reflect on what it means to be a mentor and what mentorship means to me.

If we're fortunate, our first experience in mentorship comes from another person taking a meaningful interest in our lives, our success, and our happiness. This person could be a parent, an older sibling, or perhaps a coach or community leader. For me, this first experience came from a teacher during my junior and senior years of high school. This teacher took an interest in me and helped guide my discovery of my own wants and dreams at a pivotal time in my life. He helped me determine not just where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do after high school, but who I wanted to be when I got there. His council helped me determine that I wanted to attend a university. Ultimately, his advice led me to choose a university that helped me grow not just in my knowledge of the world around me but also in the maturity with which I understood my place and purpose in it. In learning about his life and experiences and reflecting on the impact I wanted to have in the world, I resolved to commit my young adult life to military service. His guidance helped me to understand the positive impact I could have on those around me, on the country I loved, and on the world I lived in. Put simply, I did not have another figure in my life who could have helped me explore and better understand those critical life choices at that age. It is not an exaggeration to say that had it not been for this teacher and his investment in my well being, I would be a very different person today.

Both in the context of Secondhand Mentorship and beyond, getting to know and work with Joe this past year has given me the opportunity to reflect on these topics and on the impact I've been able to have on those younger than me. While I started by mentoring only those in my line of work, I've realized that I have more to share with people interested in other callings than I initially believed. Sometimes it's a matter of putting young people in touch with the right person to talk to them about their unique dreams. Sometimes it's simply about helping them to grapple with challenges and life choices that most Americans face at one point or another. In each case, when I see my ability to positively impact the life of another person, I feel as though I am paying forward the gift that my high school teacher granted me years ago.

Mentorship is a gift. It's one of the most impactful gifts we can give another person, but also one of the most impactful gifts we can give ourselves. None of us make it to where we are on our own strengths alone, and the opportunity to be that leg up for a person with a dream is one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. When you take on that role, you are able to meaningfully contribute to the well being not just of those people, but also of their communities and of the communities of the people they go on to positively impact. You begin to truly understand that when we all lift each other up, we all stand a bit taller.

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