Create Good: Keep Showing Up
The family pretended they weren’t home, but I saw them through the window. I knocked on the door again, only this time harder, and then stomped back to my car through the crunchy snow. An outsider might have thought I was trying to repossess a car; I was trying to mentor a young girl.
I cursed myself for not acting on one of the fake illnesses I conjured up in my head on the drive over. That nasty stomach bug was going around. Pink eye is always a great go-to excuse. A migraine would have worked.
Instead, I pep-talked myself into driving to my mentee’s house. It’s only an hour and a half every other week, I chastised myself. There really isn’t any reason for not showing up. But that wasn’t true. There were plenty of reasons for not showing up.
Expectations vs. Reality
When I first spoke to the agency about mentoring, the worker informed me my potential mentee had been waiting over a year for a mentor. Sure, this girl came from a challenging family, and she had behavior issues, but you know, it was expected given her background. Learning was difficult for her. The family moved frequently, especially in the middle of the night. Dad was in prison, again. The mother was young and overwhelmed, but the agency worker assured me this girl would thrive with a person consistently investing in her life.
I was up for the task. I would invest in her life. Hard kids were my thing. I was good at relationships. I knew I could connect with this girl because I, too, came from a “challenging background.” I signed up for the year commitment. Let the good times and memory making begin.
I envisioned the two of us spending afternoons at the park, which I quickly discovered she hated. I imagined helping the girl with homework, which I learned she despised more than the park. My overactive, do-gooding mind even flashed to future years, certain this young girl and I would keep in touch through letters and occasional coffee dates, but it turned out my mentee loathed writing and balked at all warm drinks, including hot cocoa.
Hard Relationships Don’t Always Get Easier
In the beginning of our mentoring relationship, I thought my consistency would prove my worth as a mentor, but when I attended an award day at the girl’s school, the family pretended they didn’t know me. Later, when I bought the girl a small heart necklace for Valentine’s Day, the mother chastised me for not thinking of my mentee’s younger brother. That same day, the girl’s mother walked me to my car and asked if she could borrow money.
Each week, I’d scour the newspaper for events an eleven-year-old might deem fun, but as soon as she plopped herself into the front seat of my car, she’d remind me the only things she enjoyed were video games, television, and eating out.
“You never take me anywhere good to eat!” she spat.
She was right. I didn’t take her anywhere good to eat. In fact, I never took her anywhere to eat. My husband and I were broke, and when I signed up to be a mentor, I didn’t consider my new relationship might cost me more than time.
Sometimes, I bought the girl a one-dollar ice cream cone, and we would sit across from each other at a fast food restaurant in silence. I ran out of questions and conversation starters months earlier.
Keep Showing Up (Even When You Have to Drag Yourself)
I cannot imagine what my girl took away from our relationship, but I do know this: my girl and I both needed Jesus to show up in our small lives that year. We were both stubborn. We needed to know God refuses to give up on us, ever, and sometimes God uses people in our lives to remind us of just that.
I never stopped showing up at her house. My mentee never stopped plopping herself down in the front seat of my car and pushing herself through whatever crazy activity I thought would help us arrive at the good times.
Our relationship was always cumbersome and awkward, hard to hold, and a burden to carry, but on the last day of our mentorship, the girl mumbled, “Let’s go to the park.” She then turned her head quickly and stared out of the car window.
Question: Sometimes doing good is just plain hard. How can you keep going when at most you see a tiny victory?
It takes work to create good. It takes time and energy and resources and, well, work. Somewhere along the way, you might feel discouraged or worn out or frustrated by the whole thing, so we've asked a few people in The High Calling network to talk to us about creating and cultivating good things. We hope this series, Create Good, inspires you to keep looking up, pressing on, and doing good. We pray you find the inspiration to "not grow weary in doing good." God sees your work. God knows your desire to do good, to create good, to celebrate and cultivate good in the world. God is for you. And so are we.
Graphic Image by: Mary Anne Morgan. Designed by: Kris Camealy