Beside You


"Wise advisor" from the Greek Mentor, friend of Odysseus


Today is National Mentoring Day. The word is taken from the wise counsel of Greek mythology. He advised Odysseus during the latter’s ten-year journey home after the fall of Troy, and when the Goddess Athena took human form it was his face she chose.  


Those of us who’ve struggled with long-term projects can identify with Odysseus’s decade at sea. And if we suspend our disbelief just a little, it’s easy to appreciate that a good mentor may have more than one face. 


The trusted friend who reminds us of our good qualities and true worth


The wise elder who steers us away from pitfalls we may not have spotted


The truth-teller who gives us what we need, even when it’s the last thing we want


Sometimes it’s difficult to categorise behaviour at all. When working in Russia some years ago I spent most of one winter in the small towns on the banks of the Vatyegan River. Deep in the heart of Siberia, the cold was biting and the resilience of the locals was remarkable. One man I got to know well was father to a teenaged girl who pursued her academic studies with relentless enthusiasm. The electricity supply was limited and the girl’s bedroom had only an oil lamp. To replenish the oil, her father made a weekly journey to the nearest supplier, carrying the only container he had or could afford to fill. 

The walk was three and a half miles each way, and in sub-zero conditions it seemed longer. After seeing him make the journey twice I joined him for the third. He found this amusing. I carried no oil and added no value. For the first mile or so we walked in silence apart from the occasional snort of laughter as he glanced at the frost gathering on my eyebrows. 

Then we gradually slipped into conversation in the little English he had. Our pace quickened, and the miles were not so hard. On the way back he let me carry the full container for half the distance and by the end he was laughing with me, not at me. I stayed in his town for nine weeks and we made the journey six more times. Each walk seemed quicker, regardless of the weather.


There are times when you need a second pair of eyes or ears to confirm what you know to be the right decision.


There are times when you need blunt truth to steer you away from the wrong track


And there are times when you just need to know there’s someone walking beside you.



Happy National Mentoring Day.


Write a comment

Comments: 26
  • #1

    Adele Marinescu (Thursday, 27 October 2016 16:09)

    I am inspired by this. Thank you very much.

  • #2

    Cathy Hill (Thursday, 27 October 2016 16:53)

    People say you never forget a good teacher. I don't think we ever forget a good mentor either, no matter how old we are when they come into our lives. Great post.

  • #3

    Gary Lewis (Thursday, 27 October 2016 20:10)

    Keep walking beside them, and keep writing articles like this. Happy mentoring day to you too.

  • #4

    Emma Horton (Friday, 28 October 2016 13:29)

    Good message not just for mentoring day but for every other day too. I would treasure a mentor who walked by my side no matter what.

  • #5

    Mel Rosmade (Thursday, 10 November 2016 15:45)

    Thank you for reminding us good mentors are not always the ones who make long speeches but can be the ones who just walk beside you in silence.

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