Do you remember the first time you were truly inspired?
For me, it was 1971. I was 11 years old, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes came to my church in Jacksonville, Fla., bringing along a young pitcher from the New York Mets to speak to our congregation. That man was Tom Seaver.
Mr. Seaver had won the National League Rookie of the Year Award a couple of years prior to coming to my church, and we were all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear all about the game, the awards and the glory. Yet, he was talking about a different type of glory. He was talking about his faith and inspiration…rarely a word about the actual game of baseball. My mother and I sat in the back of the church listening to him talk about his life as it revolved aroundbaseball, not the other way around.
Nonetheless, I was fully engaged for that 30-minute message — keep in mind that it is tough for an eleven-year-old to sit still for any length of time. But, I was inspired because he was an amazing speaker and he made me feel that he was talking directly to ME.
After he spoke, Mr. Seaver proceeded to the back of the church to greet the exiting parishioners. And, as he passed our aisle, my mother reminded me that I needed to look him in the eyes and give a firm handshake. Today was my day to prove what she had taught me.
I stood in line for what seemed forever, and when it became my turn to meet Mr. Seaver, I gave him all that I had. I mustered up the nerve to shake his hand as hard as any eleven-year-old could. And, as I grabbed his hand, I will never forget — Tom looked down at me and said, “That is one strong handshake!”
Let me tell you, I floated out of my church on cloud nine. I cannot remember anything that I specifically said to that baseball legend, but I sure do remember what he told me: “…one strong handshake.” On the ride home, I remember thinking to myself, “My mother was right all along.” She had taught me the importance of looking someone in the eyes and giving them a firm handshake. And, on that special Sunday morning, Tom Seaver, this baseball legend, let me know how much he appreciated it. Since that day, I have taught my own children the importance of the same. They are all grown now, and each of them understands how a handshake can start a relationship — how a handshake can improve one’s chances of being noticed.
My earliest mentor was my mother…a single parent taking care of two teenage boys.
Her mentoring was based in southern hospitality and taught me many ideals that are ostensibly missing in today’s society: saying “yes, sir” and “no, sir,” opening doors, walking on the outside of a sidewalk for a woman, graciously eating my turnip greens…and looking someone in the eyes and giving them a firm handshake.
Tom Seaver taught me that a kind gesture is welcomed. There is no monetary gain; however, the truest reward is praise. Mentoring can take on many forms, from mentoring a child to mentoring a professional colleague. It comes in any form, from a handshake to career advising for a college graduate. And, many times, it transcends that brief encounter and becomes an inspiration.
I shook Mr. Seaver’s hand firmly as I greeted him and looked him in the eyes because I wanted to impress this baseball legend. I wanted to inspire him. It turned out that he inspired me instead with that one, brief comment, “That is one, strong handshake!”
Through my involvement in our local Junior Achievement, I lecture students in middle and high school about the importance of greeting someone and leaving him or her with a good impression — all that impression takes is a mere 30 seconds. I also tell these students that there is a price to pay when doing so. That price is patience, as you do it because it is the right thing to do. Not everyone is going to eulogize you for your efforts, but when they do, you’ll walk away on cloud nine.
Mentoring is giving back, and sometimes, it all starts with just a handshake. So, as you leave your office today, consider mentoring because you want to influence, share, engage and inspire. The person you encounter might be a student, a friend or your own child. Maybe you’ll leave them on cloud nine.
Consider the mentors who influenced you throughout the years.
- Who mentored you that very first time? Was it a parent, a co-worker or a chance meeting with a professional in your community?
- Of those you mentored in return, who thanked you for your efforts?
- Lastly, who inspired you?