The difference between a teacher and a mentor is that a mentor is interested in our soul.
About 20 years ago I met two old men who profoundly impacted my life. One of the men died within a few years and left a great hole in my life. The other man is still alive, though quite elderly. He lives a distance away and there are times when I wish we could just sit and talk about what it means to live a full human life.
Meeting the old men altered my life and my understanding of it. They neither forced a belief system on me, nor a way of life. They didn’t judge me. They simply allowed me to explore with them the complexity of being a human being. In the course of this exploration, I began to understand what life is and what my role in it is. By this time, one of the old men had died and I could only communicate with the other by letters.
Robert explained to me that I had been unable to claim my own inner wealth, my gold, and see who I truly was and am. His responsibility was to hold that gold for me till such time as I could claim it for myself, to reflect back to me his vision of my worth till I could see it for myself. His responsibility to me was to gladly give up the gold in celebration. Robert told me how he’d had a teacher, a very famous man, who’d refused to give up the gold and set Robert free into his own life. Robert left and met a mentor who could do this. When he told me the about the concept of “holding the gold for someone,” he added that it was now my responsibility to do the same thing for others.
I find I am most free and happy when I can assume that responsibility, that it’s profoundly more important to me than attempts at self-glory. This attempt to fulfill my responsibility toward these old men is also the motivating force behind my writing, is actually the motivating force behind all that I do. For each reader who has fatefully stumbled on my writing, I hope to give that reader a sense someone is holding the gold for him/her, that someone believes in his/her ability to understand what life is and what his/her role in it is. I’m willing to hold that gold till it’s joyfully claimed.
I may stumble in trying to express this responsibility, and even fall short of the necessary skill with words, but all I can do is try.