I suddenly realized that all of my mentors were gone!
I am not sure what prompted the realization. It may have been out of some shadow in a dream I had just as I awakened from a nap. In any case I found myself thinking of the major mentors I have had in my life, all of them physically gone now. At the same moment I felt the loss and the deep value their lives and example had on me.
I do not remember whether as a young child I had mentors. I know I had “heroes.” Heroes are somehow different from mentors. Heroes come in uniforms, like Superman and Batman, the Green Hornet—icons like that. Mentors, on the other hand, are often the ordinary humans who stand out in our experiences, people we look up to. They may seem like everyday people when viewed by others, but to me, they are special.
It was while in seminary that I discovered my first mentor. Ed Rabel was a fellow student, several years ahead of me. He was already an extraordinary and insightful person who had grasped a unique understanding of the secret doctrines tucked away within the covers of the Bible. His ability to take well-known allegories, parables and characterizations and weave them into everyday life experiences brought a guiding light to my heart and mind. His path to understanding the Bible led to his becoming a singular authority on metaphysical Bible interpretation at Unity School. He took the Bible out of the past and into today using the stories as templates for how the interactions of our thinking and feeling created both our challenges and the means to overcome them. He was a great friend and teacher who also shared his love of music with me. I thank him in large part for my appreciation of the classics.
My second mentor, James Dillet Freeman, was the Director of Ministerial Training at Unity School. I had the privilege of serving as his secretary for two years while preparing for my student years. He personally tutored me in philosophy, comparative religion and public speaking. As Poet Laureate of Unity he was the author of numerous books and poems that brought inspiration and hope to millions of readers. He and his wife, Billie, were the God Parents of my son, David. Astronaut James Irwin on Apollo Flight 15 took his poem, I Am There, to the moon. Earlier, on Apollo Flight 11, his Prayer for Protection was on the first moon landing. Here is that prayer:
The Light of God surrounds me;
The Love of God enfolds me;
The Power of God protects me;
The Presence of God watches over me;
Wherever I am God is!
From Mr. Freeman I learned to view different possibilities when considering decisions. Sometimes we would spend what seemed like hours debating some subject. He would lead me on in the debate until I almost reached a point of agreement with him. Then, he would switch sides and force me to support the opposite. This invaluable exercise provided me with practical understanding of and appreciation for the views other people might hold on any given matter.
As I viewed these important people in my life I realized I still have mentors. They guide me in different ways than when I was embarking upon my education and career in the ministry. Now my mentors are the friends I hold dear, those who support me, but also who care enough to tell me when I fail to maintain my objectivity. Thank goodness for these new mentors. As we age it is very easy to become more entrenched in our attitudes, beliefs and actions. In and of itself this is not a bad thing. However, if we become more isolated and disengaged from our relationships with others, we may lose sight of those who care about us and who want to be a part of our lives.
So, I choose to not lose sight of these new mentors in my life.