Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18
Anyone who has watched a crime show knows that your fingers have unique prints, and wherever you have touched something, they can leave an imprint. Often the imprint is not obvious to the naked eye. When police are at a crime scene, they often “dust” for latent fingerprints to help identify who was there in order to solve the crime.
So it is in life. You often leave your fingerprints on people that you have met or have a relationship with. Your wife, your kids, your grandkids, your mentees, your friends or colleagues. The list goes on. You may not realize it, but those fingerprints often don’t go away, just as they don’t go away from the scene of crime. You’ve left them behind.
That’s a good thing in my estimation. My wife and I have always thought about our legacy which is not about us, but about those we leave behind. God has blessed us with good health in our later years which enables us to continue to be active while many of our contemporaries are sidelined.
We have been strategic in our reaching out to our 9 grandchildren. Several years ago, we set about designing trips or events to take them to without their parents. We started with a trip around Europe with Sarah, which led to taking our four grandsons to an Army Navy game in a freezing and snowy Philadelphia football stadium. We didn’t make it to halftime. The boys were more excited about the snow than watching the game.
We then took our grandsons to 7 D Ranch, a dude ranch in Wyoming. Sis is not a horseperson, so this was a challenge for her. It was a big hit; all of them want to return.
The next trip was with our two oldest granddaughters, one in college and the other in high school. Both have musical talent, so we toured through the southeast emphasizing music venues. We started with country and western in Nashville and ended up with Jazz in New Orleans. One of them, Allie, played in a High School jazz band as did my father who put himself through college playing piano.
Our upcoming trip is with our two youngest granddaughters both 11, and they chose to return to the Dude ranch, although we gave them both a number of other options to consider. Not to be left out, their Dads decided to join us which will be a first. My other son is considering joining, too even though he won’t have a child there.
Our intent is to leave our fingerprints all over our kids and grandkids. I never knew my own grandparents, so this is something I missed in my life. My mother’s parents died when I was very young. My Dad’s parents lived in Los Angeles while we grew up on the east coast. In those days, flying across country was a luxury and expensive, so we rarely saw them.
And so it goes with my mentees. Even the ones that I didn’t realize I was mentoring in my law career who later said that they consider me a mentor. When that happens, I think about latent fingerprints – those which you can’t see but are still there after you leave.
When I became a Christian at age 38, it took me a while to get my spiritual bearings as husband and father. It’s been a straight up learning curve in some ways. I had to unlearn a lot of selfish habits. I can honestly say that I was far from perfect, either then or now. Going from a god of self, to obeying the God of the universe is a big change.
As I grew in maturity, I realized the importance of not only mentoring my kids, but also mentoring younger men around me. That was about 30 years ago. I have always been an encourager, but this was different when I became an intentional mentor.
Over time, I have mentored dozens of men, some young, some not so young. Everyone needs a mentor at a different stage of life, even men in their 40’s. I guess I could even use a mentor in my 70’s because I am always learning life the hard way.
I may have underestimated my impact in some ways because it’s not about me. My job is to build up and invest in someone else and help them in the future. It’s a selfless art, and certainly not a glamorous process. I don’t ever expect to see my name in lights, and that’s fine with me.
What drives me is that leaving fingerprints (and mentoring) is what we are called to do in this life. I learned that it is not optional. When I see older men who haven’t “gotten it”, it makes me sad that they haven’t realized the impact they can have on the lives of the next generation.
Many in the next generation have not had the benefit of growing up in an intact nuclear family of a father and a mother. Those are the ones most in need of help.
The challenge is that there are now two generations – millennials and Gen Z – who are open to having a mentor. But those interested in mentoring are too far and few in between. In this day of social distancing, the ability to develop a relationship with a younger person is probably the easiest it will get. They are starved for having someone invest in them.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Encourage other mentor aged men and women to get out of the stands onto the sidelines coaching and interacting with the next generation. We need more mentors.
FURTHER STUDY: An Introduction to Mentoring: Mentoring 101 – Radio Interview
WORSHIP: Let My Words be Few – Redman
MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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