Who is a person that you look up to and try to model to become the best man/woman you can be? You probably have several. This could be someone you see every day, like your dad, grandmother, or neighbor, or they could be someone famous, such as Thomas Jefferson, Ghandi, or Mother Teresa. Whoever they are though, they serve as a mentor for you as you work to become the best person you can be. These people are an important part of your life, as they provide the goal in life that you strive for while at the same time modeling the behaviors to get you there. The unfortunate thing is that these tremendously influential people in our lives often never know how much of an impact they had on us, and I am sorry to say that my mentors are no exception to this. So, to remedy this unfortunate fact of life, today I would like to tell you about one of my “man”tors, Nick.
I distinctly remember the first time that I met Nick sitting in my parent’s basement when I was only 8 years old. My father was the John Glenn High School football coach, and every week during the season my family would host a team dinner where the players would come to our house to eat and discuss that week’s game plan. Being so young, most of the players would just say “hi” to me and move on to eat with their friends and teammates, but not Nick. If Ryan and I were playing a video game when he walked by our room, he would stop and watch for a minute, talk to us, and sometimes even take a turn himself if my dad wasn’t looking. I remember one day when he and Ryan acted out the characters from “Street Fighter.” Even as a teenager of 17 and a star, high school running back playing for my father, he took the time to get to know me. I should have realized then what an amazing man he would become, and how much of a positive impact he would have on my life, but it wasn’t for another decade that our paths would again cross.
10 years later during the Summer after my junior year at John Glenn High School, Nick moved in with his mother who lives right next door to my family. Since his mom and my folks are really good friends, we saw each other in passing quite frequently and slowly got to know each other. Despite our large age difference, over a month or two we became good friends, and on any given day that Summer you probably would have found us playing video games or a 10 hour, marathon game of “Risk” in my parent’s living room. He eventually even volunteered to learn my medical care, so that we could go out to eat or to the movies together. By the end of that Summer, I considered him one of my closest friends.
Over the next few years we remained very close and would hang out most weekends. During this time, he got to see me achieve my dreams of going to the University of Notre Dame and living in the dorms, and I got to watch him find the love of his life. I got the honor of being a groomsmen in his wedding, and I got drunk for the first time at his reception. I also got to watch him become a father and start a family. As our lives diverged more and more, we saw each other less and less, and as so often happens, we grew apart. He is busy taking care of his family and being a high school administrator in Indiana, and I am out here in Kansas City pursuing my mission of helping people through Roll Models. Today, we keep up on each other’s lives and speak every now and then, but that is about it. Even though we are no longer the close friends that we used to be, I still look to him as a mentor to follow to be a good man and lead a good life.
The main way that Nick has been a “man”tor for me, is not so much by any specific thing that he said or did, but by showing me what it means to live your life as a good man. Like the way that he will do anything for anyone that needs help, and the way that he is unquestioningly loyal to his family and friends. His incredible work ethic, and the way that even as a father and school administrator, he still is a kid at heart and knows how to have fun. The way that he is kind to everyone he meets, and how he is always there to give you a smile and ask you about your day. All of these traits, and countless others, are things he has modeled for me as I have grown from a teenager into a man. I know without a doubt that if not for the role he has played in my life, I would not be the man I am today.
In addition to his life serving as an example of how to be a good person, he has also taught me a couple of very important lessons about life. One such lesson he actually said to my sister, Stephanie, which she then passed on to me, but it still counts. The day I moved into the dorms at Notre Dame, just as my family was leaving, my sister told me what he had told her on her first day of college. He said, “If someone, anyone, invites you to go do something, go do it. Studying and classes are important, but there is so much more to gain from college than what you learn in the classroom. Don’t miss out on it.” This message is something that I thought about often during my time at Notre Dame, and being the huge nerd that I am, it was extremely helpful in getting me out of the library to truly experience and enjoy college life. Another life lesson that he taught me was to appreciate my mother the amount that she deserves. Of course, I have always loved my mom and appreciated everything that she has done for me, but as a typical, self-centered teen, I would occasionally complain or get angry with her. One day while Nick and I were driving somewhere, and I was venting to him about something she had done that I thought was just so egregious, he said, “Scott, you shouldn’t talk about your mom that way. You only get one mom your entire life, and you never know for how long. You should treat her better and appreciate everything she does for you, because someday she won’t be there.” The honesty and emotion with which he said this to me made it really hit home. To this day, whenever my mom does something that I don’t like or disagree with, I think about what he said to me that day in my van.
You probably never would have thought that Nick and I would end up such big parts of each others lives if you had seen us pretending to be in “Street Fighter” that day in my parents’ basement, but life works in mysterious ways. He was a great mentor for me as I transformed from a teenager into an adult, and he is still someone that I look to when I think about how to be a better man. I can never thank him enough for the enormous impact he has had on my life, but I hope that by watching me live the life I do in spite of the obstacles I face, that I have taught him a thing or two as well about living a fulfilling, successful life. Who are the people in your life that have shown you how to be the kind of person you want to be? Have you told them how much they have meant to you? Take 5 minutes as soon as you are done reading this to write an email or make a phone call to one of your mentors. Not only is this small action nothing compared to what they have done for you, but it will bring an immense amount of happiness to their day. I am guessing that you will also find, that it will bring a lot of happiness to your day as well.