A few Thoughts on

The Rewards of Mentoring

by Jonathan Young

Mentoring Relationship: Wilbur mentored by a spider.

We reach a stage in life where we find ourselves mentoring others. There is great satisfaction in passing along the treasures we have learned along the way.

It is a golden moment when a mentor confirms an overlooked quality in the protégé. There are dimensions in people that can only be claimed when affirmed by another.

Being this special kind of guide is more art than science, but studies have shown those who succeed have found helpful mentors. Sometimes the relationship is a formal part of a work situation, other times, the advisor is sought out or found in a seemingly random way. My guess is some unconscious strategy is at work to find just the right expert with exactly the desired qualities.

The role is essentially to be an extra parent. We get the word from myth. Mentor was the old family friend who provided fatherly support to the son of Odysseus while the warrior king was off in his travels. Mentoring is slightly different from what a parent does. A mentor brings perspectives from beyond the nuclear family. No matter how dedicated a parent might be, there is more to be discovered &em; about the world, and about oneself.

I've been revisiting Charlotte's Web. These are the adventures of Wilbur, the runt pig saved from the axe by an eight-year old girl. Later, at risk again, he receives help from a wise spider.

The story illustrates how the process of identity formation is guided by the generosity of others. There are key elements of a mythic quest and a celebration of the power of words to be noted in this classic. It may have been meant for young readers, but Charlotte's Web has abundant wisdom for adults.

The mirrors of timeless stories can show us where we are in our own mythic adventures. There are certain tales that stay with us, to help us find our way, and teach us how to be the people we want to become. Charlotte's Web tells us we can find marvelous qualities in those we advise. It reminds us to notice when our protégés are terrific, radiant, and humble &em; in just the right way.