The value of mentors is immeasurable. Sometimes it’s someone offering us the right words at the right time; other times it’s watching how they respond to a challenging situation. For some, it’s a one-time chance encounter with a guide; for others it’s a more formal mentorship. Their guidance can dramatically affect the trajectory of our lives through a helping hand or through wisdom that helps us see things in a different way. I’m sure that anyone reading this blog has been inspired by at least one in this or her lives. I want to share a story of my first important mentor who, at a critical point in my life, saw more in me than I could in myself .
Brother John Donahoo was my biology teacher my freshman year at St. Mary’s University, and he was also the premed advisor. I remember going to talk with him a few times my first three semesters, and I always left his office feeling better about myself than when I walked in. He just had a way of bolstering up his students. It was at the end of my sophomore year that he changed my life.
I couldn’t decide on my major, and it was time to declare. I had taken premed biology and chemistry classes in case I chose premed, but I had also taken several education classes for a possible career in teaching grade school. I had worked with kids my whole life: helping to raise my two youngest sisters, babysitting, umpiring little league baseball, and working at summer camps. I had always known that I wanted to work with kids; I just couldn’t decide in what manner.
Brother John heard my angst about needing to choose my major, and he gave me some sage advice that I have never forgotten.
“Tim, you would make a great teacher with your love of kids, but after some years of teaching you might get a little stale, at which time you could become a principle. That’s about as far as that track can take you. If you go to medical school and get that MD behind your name, those credentials will open up so many more doors for you throughout your career. You might want to choose the path that will open up the most doors for you.”
His words resonated with me, so I decided to go the premed route. I remember leaving his office that day feeling calm and sure of myself. Looking back, I can see how his advice has played out just as he described, because having the MD behind my name has opened up some doors that might have remained closed without it. That level of credibility helped me gain a radio show for six years, opportunities to speak to parents and professionals throughout the world, entry into schools with my Strong Girls Strong World program, get a book published by Penguin Putnam Publishers, and numerous other opportunities throughout my career.
I am eternally grateful that Brother John Donahoo came into my life with the right words at the right time, and I hope that your children will find mentors to guide them along their path too. The holiday season is also a great time to express gratitude for people who have made a difference in your life. Make sure your mentors feel appreciated for the gift that they are.