A Letter from Earnest: My Mentor’s Impact

By Earnest Alexander

I’d like to tell you about my own mentor. In the black church, we frequently had banquets. For a particular celebration when I was 13 years of age, the women of the church cooked a huge meal. At the end of the evening, I noticed that the women in the kitchen were tired, and most were elderly. They were cleaning. I felt compelled to go in and assist them. We washed dishes, scrubbed pots and cleaned floors late into the evening to be ready for worship the next morning.

That one gesture endeared an old woman, named Elsie, to me. She and her husband, Ben, became a part of my life and walk. My mother was not a church-going Christian, so Ben and Elsie gave me rides to church. On the Sundays when we had communion, I went up to partake with them because we took communion as families at church.

Ben, knowing that I was fatherless, realized that I needed a skill. He lacked formal education, so he couldn’t teach meacademically. But he could paint. That’s how he made his living. So he taught me how to paint, and I did different projects with him. As I grew, he noticed my material needs. Whenever they saw any need, they took action.

When I went away to college, from time to time I would go to the mailbox and find a gift from them. They did things my mother couldn’t do for me. Ben taught me how to treat women and to take pride in my work. He and Elsie are in heaven, but I’m thrilled they can look at my life from the portals of glory and know that their mentoring was not in vain. However simple you or your life is, it is a life worth modeling. Why don’t you give a child a chance?

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