Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rethinking Gifts V

The mythical pattern encourages us, as authority figures, not only to affirm and encourage the young with our words but also to present them with a concrete demonstration that we actually believe what we are saying about them. This is the gift. As Menelaus gave Telemachus a priceless silver bowl handcrafted by the gods and Obi-Wan gave Luke his father’s light saber, so too must we give a gift that expresses the reality of our words. What gifts do you have to give the students in your life? Oftentimes, the gift can be an opportunity, similar to the opportunity adult leaders gave to Manuel, Jordan, and Meredith. Other times, it can be a literal, physical present.

I had the privilege of mentoring a young man, a high school senior, who had unfortunately managed to get into a great deal of trouble. His father was active in his life and wanted to be a part of the mentoring process whenever possible. As the boy made progress throughout the year and became accountable for his actions, his relationship with his father improved. Throughout his mentoring sessions, his father affirmed the good and noble characteristics that he observed in his son’s life. Though a frequently painful process, the young man began to make significant strides. Upon his graduation from high school, his father presented him with a gift that blew him away! He gave his son an actual sword, a real Scottish Claymore like the one William Wallace used in the movie Braveheart (1995). With this gift, the young man knew that his father actually believed that he could be trusted with something dangerous. He was trustworthy.

When you consider this aspect of the mythical archetype, ask yourself some questions about a student you want to impact. What gift would provide the student with an understanding that your words have real meaning—that they are not empty? Can you arrange some opportunity for this young person that would communicate your trust in her or allow her to realize the strength she doesn’t believe she possesses?

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