On the morning he died and in the days following, I read similar sentiments again and again on Facebook and his CaringBridge page: “I’m so grateful to have had Jerry as my mentor.” “Jerry was a wonderful mentor to me.” “I so appreciate the time that Jerry took to help me when I was just starting out.”
Jerry was a mentor.
Mentoring isn’t leading by example in a distant, removed kind of way. It’s not simply offering a wise adage or helpful hint from time to time. It isn’t just serving as a role model. Mentoring means working in the trenches, hands-on. Offering guidance and advice. Serving as a sounding board. Being there. Getting your hands dirty. It requires time, commitment, passion, patience and energy. Mentoring is work.
I’ve never been a mentor. I’ve always felt like I could get the job done better and more quickly if I did it myself. I didn’t have time to walk a green intern through the process. I didn’t have the desire to teach someone, to offer guidance, to pick up the pieces when the project went awry. I’ve never been a mentor because I could never be bothered.
But Jerry? Jerry could be bothered. Jerry could be interrupted. Jerry made the time; he listened; he tuned in; he got his hands dirty. And the fact that he did so without hesitation was one of his many, many gifts.
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other,” Paul tells the Corinthians.
You know, the first several times I read Paul’s insights on spiritual gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians, I missed that part. I ignored the part about the purpose of our gifts. I assumed that God gave me gifts to benefit me. But the fact is, God gives us our gifts not only to grow our own faith and to nurture our own relationship with him, but more importantly, to benefit others. God’s gifts aren’t only for our taking. They are for our giving.
Jerry got that. And while I don’t know if he ever read Paul’s letter, I do know that he gave his gifts for the benefit of others time and time again. Jerry lived Paul’s words. And the dozens of tributes stacked up on his Facebook and CaringBridge pages are a beautiful and true testament to that.
What’s one of your gifts? And how do you use it for the benefit of others?