Over the years, I’ve had several mentors in my life. Mr. Brown taught me how to tie a tie. Mr. Richard helped me to complete my college applications. And Rev. Johnson always offered advice about major issues in my life and helped guide me into adulthood.
After I graduated from college and got married, I didn’t think I needed mentors anymore. I was sure that I could figure out things on my own. However, my self-assuredness didn’t last long. When my wife told me she was pregnant, I realized that I knew nothing about being a father. And I was terrified.
One day, while leading a group at church, an older gentleman noticed something was wrong with me. Robert Nichols was a large man with a gentle spirit. He reminded me of Santa Claus with his full, gray beard, spectacles and jolly laugh. I admired him because of his calm demeanor and ability to make sense of difficult subjects.
“What’s troubling you?” he asked.
I admitted that I was struggling with doubt and fear. I didn’t have a father to emulate and I knew nothing about raising a child. To make matters worse, I had just heard about a school shooting and I questioned the wisdom of bringing a child into this world.
“We’ve all experienced these same feelings,” he said. His baritone voice was like a salve soothing my troubled soul. “We’ve all been afraid. We’ve all had to learn on the job. I know it’s scary, but you have to push past the fear. Being a father is tough, but it’s the best job you’ll ever have.”
I thanked him for his encouragement and asked him I if could turn to him if I needed any more advice.
“Of course you can,” he said with a laugh. “We’re here to help one other.”
For the duration of my wife’s pregnancy, Robert mentored me, counseled me, and shared valuable parenting and marriage tips. After few months, he became more than a mentor. He was my friend.
As men, we often want to hide our insecurities and make it seem as if we have everything under control. But if we are to raise a new generation of kids, we have to admit our shortcomings and seek guidance from more experienced dads. And when we see another dad struggling, we must be willing to offer help. No one has all the answers, but each of us has the ability to listen and show compassion.
Although Robert is no longer with us, I’m thankful for the time he invested in me. His sage advice helped me to develop the courage I needed to be a father. I hope that I can do the same for another dad.
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