The Value of a Mentor: Odysseus and You
Who or What is a mentor?
According to Wikipedia and Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcimus or Anchialus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus' foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.
When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus' mother Penelope. As Mentor, the goddess encouraged Telemachus to stand up against the suitors and go abroad to find out what happened to his father. When Odysseus returned to Ithaca, Athena appeared briefly in the form of Mentor again at Odysseus' palace.
Because of Mentor's relationship with Telemachus, and the disguised Athena's encouragement and practical plans for dealing with personal dilemmas, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
In Today's World
Mentor of Greek Mythology has evolved into quite a different character today. Often mentoring is seen as an obligation, a duty executed without regard to it's potential significance. Corporations mentor their upwardly mobile junior executives. Very essential non-profits attract volunteers to mentor children in schools as a means of replacing non-existent parental guidance. Mentoring today is almost systemic, often used as a means of improving a bottom line, instead of nurturing, guiding and protecting an individual.
I hesitate to use the proverb "It takes a village to raise a child," as that would open up a different can of worms but, I do, however, firmly believe that people who are mentored by those outside of the nuclear family unit gain perspectives that are incredibly beneficial to them. That is not to say that today's mentoring relationships aren't valuable, they most certainly are and do produce vast improvements in the lives of both the mentor and those whom they mentor.
The Mentor Relationship
I have been on the recipient side of 5 mentoring relationships in my life so far, only two of which were actually stated as such. They were a High School football coach, a pastor, a friend, an educator, and a life coach. It is my belief that the mentoring relationship must be comprised of a connection that may or may not be known to the participants, but is present all the same. That connection consists primarily of a combination of a mutual interest in an element of living, including a goal or desire of each participant to a play a role in successfully fulfilling the outcome of that interest and the inherent desire of each individual to interact with the other on a profound and personal level.
Notice though, in the Greek mythological Mentor, he was charged with more than just helping an associate with his homework or getting promoted at the local factory. Mentor was charged with the life of Odysseus' son and his domain. Although the characterization of Mentor is defined by Wikipedia in this article, what stands out for me in the relationship between Mentor and Telemachus was the provision of Wisdom and Knowledge .
Whether you believe in Greek mythology or not it is hard to dispute the value of imparting wisdom to a younger, maturing generation. In my humble opinion this wasn't about doing it for Telemachus. Mentor was chosen by Odysseus because he knew Mentor would help the young man grow, using wisdom to teach, train and demonstrate the values Odysseus would have taught him if he were there. Even when Athena intervened disguised as Mentor it was for the benefit of Telemachus.
The value of a good mentor is to impart Wisdom and Knowledge for the benefit of the one being mentored. The residual benefit is to the mentor, who gains wisdom each time he takes responsibility for the growth of another human being and does so when he or she shares his or her whole self and his or her experience with love!
If you ever decide to enter into a mentoring relationship, be it mentor or mentored, consider the value of what is expected as well as what is given. The reward is as high as the price, but very, very, worth it!