We come to Friday morning Interplay—a dozen of us in Seattle and soon sixteen or twenty. The leaders rotate and bring themselves and the Interplay forms so we can renew, uplift, and share. We often start with babbling in pairs and the forms begin. Last week it was the topic of mentoring—played with in incremental steps—backing up and into that unique and blessed relationship of teacher/learner and those who show us “the” way. An opening quote (not a usual piece) was from Parker Palmer, so I picked him as my mentor example. Can a mentor be a family member, too? My partner chose her father. In her case, the mentor was her dear father and mentor who led her to “be who she could be” and she knows now even after his passing more how he taught and gave her wisdom and life! Surely her example and choice was enlightened by maturity and awareness of what parents can give and how they lead us to ourselves.
How could mine be Parker, who wouldn’t know me if he walked in the room, but I know him—his writings, his work in education, his work in growth of the spirit. He embodies for me the mentor who “made my worlds of faith and work” meld into one entity during one magic daylong workshop over fifteen years ago. He was just writing his famous book, Courage to Teach, and he asked us to pick an animal that would represent our “teacher presence” in the classroom. He had just worked at Berea College for a time, and he picked a sheepdog. I don’t remember what I “chose” that day during the exercise, but I remember talking to Parker and telling him that I could physically feel a connection—that often did not exist—between my Christian church home and my secular college teaching. He was that mentor link—he had been my teacher in both of those physical places.
If I think about my “animal” mentor today, I would pick a panda bear—that fluffy reminder of gentle curiosity and tree climbing and quiet nudging. I know that now because those are traits I used as a teacher, to see from above and turn my head all around to take in the width and breadth of those student bodies before me and to nudge them into words. They wrote stories of their lives and used their voices in words to evoke the softness, and sacredness of each precious body. The panda that I saw last year in Australia gave me that mentor image as I captured her on video. Now I have two mentors—Parker and Panda. Gratefulness is another Interplay session to go deeper, step-by-step into a fuller more embodied life.
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