Mentoring proves humbling experience

Ben Harrison, Staff Writer

It’s spring, and the 16 year-old I mentor, Jasper, recently told me he’s missed 20 days of school. Being it’s Feb.17, this means he hasn’t been going.

His counselor asked me to schedule a meeting and tells me he missed 49 days in the fall.

 Jasper says his school-issue computer was confiscated because he threw a muffin, but the counselor says it was taken because he’s on a home-schooling program.

I wasn’t sure of his trustworthiness, but I’ve learned recently that untrustworthy people sometimes need to be trusted in order to be trustworthy.

Questioning an adolescent’s honesty, I think, can breed dishonesty.

During our three-year-long relationship, Jasper has traveled to juvenile detention twice for shoplifting.

 He started smoking cigarettes at 13, and I recently found out he smokes pot. His mother has asked me for money on more than one occasion, and he expects his diabetes to kill him before he turns 30.

He snuck off at Hastings once with a Playboy. It irked me at the time, but looking back, his deer-in-the-headlights expression was priceless.

And on occasion, he corrects my behavior, which is a humbling experience.

But it’s also encouraging.

We share meals, watch movies, play video games, talk about girls, art, music. We started reading The Giver once, but after chapter two, he found excuses not to hang out.

 He’s a junior in high school with a seventh-grade reading level.

If you haven’t stopped reading by now, good. But maybe you’re wondering why I write about mentoring when I don’t seem particularly successful as a mentor.

Life is learning, and if nothing else, you can read my experiences and feel better about your own problems.

I want him to have hope and a purpose.

But I can only be his friend as he makes those decisions for himself. Every now and then I wonder what I’m doing.

 I doubt my abilities and tell myself I can’t help him, that I can’t even help myself.

 I won’t say it hasn’t been fun, though, and I won’t stop investing in him.

I’m young and he’s younger.

We’re figuring it out. Maybe that’s what mentoring is.