As I look back and reflect on the path my life has taken, I couldn’t begin to measure just how important mentors have been in molding and directing my life. I certainly didn’t understand or maybe even appreciate the time and effort that these men were sacrificing for me at the time, but I can honestly say with 100% conviction that my place in this world today is a direct result of those men who chose to invest time in my life. I had no idea what a mentor was or did, all I saw were men loved me and who spent time with me, and being around them made me feel good about myself.

My parents divorced when I was two years old; within a couple of years my father moved to another state. I had very limited contact with him for a couple of years, then no contact at all until I was 16 years old. My mom did her best to support my sister and me, but times were tough. Without any kind of male role model in my life, I was kind of a momma’s boy. I was pretty fragile emotionally and didn’t have much confidence in myself. My mom remarried when I was seven and my stepfather was emotionally and sometimes physically abusive to me. My self esteem was low and I was in real need of someone who cared.

I was in the sixth grade and had a real love for basketball. I had tried other sports but nothing appealed like basketball. I was not the most gifted athlete, but I was tall for my age and I did try hard. I wanted desperately to have real talent, but never had anyone to work with me or encourage me to practice. At the end of the season, I was approached by Coach Sam to participate on an AAU tournament team. Looking back, I’m not sure how he knew that this was something I really needed. I knew he was taking a chance on me and I felt an obligation not to let him down. Sam and I hit it off, and he spent a lot of time with me both on and off the court. Sam did things for me and treated me like no other man had before; he made me feel good about myself. We went to professional baseball games and college basketball games; sometimes we just went out to get a coke and sit and talk. I felt like the most important kid in the world when he would come to my house and pick me up for these outings. My self esteem grew during that time.

In the years that followed, I was blessed with other mentors. During my teenage years, a friend from church was always available to talk, and helped guide me through those tough years. Then, as a young adult, there was a businessman who gave me an opportunity to work in a large corporation just because he “had a hunch about me.” He believed in me and trusted I would not let him down. When I was dating and eventually married, it was my father-in-law who mentored me, showing me by his example how to love and care for my wife. He also shared his love of the outdoors with me.

The business and personal relationships I enjoy today are a direct result of the things I learned from these men. I have been able to build a successful business by using the life skills I learned. I have also committed myself to many volunteer efforts that support my community.

There was a time when I didn’t understand the concept of a mentor, but now I know that is what these men were to me. They invested their time in me without any strings attached. They made me feel worthy of their attention and really had an impact on my self esteem. By their actions I knew they were men of integrity and character, and I aspired to be like them. The time I spent with these men are some of the fondest memories I can recall. The absolute importance of mentors in my life couldn’t be overstated.