Throughout your life, you will be blessed with meeting many people. Some of these folks will impart valuable lessons to help guide and teach you. You, too, have important knowledge to pass on. Throughout your life, you will have many opportunities to help support, show and direct other people as they grow too.
The lessons we learn from and share with others come in all different sizes and shapes. Some lessons will be small, while others will be the big, life-changing kind. You might learn how to bake an apple pie from a neighbor, learn to knit from your grandma, learn to handle stressful meetings from a co-worker, learn how to heal a broken heart from a sister or even learn to survive breast cancer from another survivor.
There are infinite ways we as people can support, nurture, teach and help one another. One of life's greatest gifts is the fact that we can, in one minute, help to make another person's life better, and in doing so, we are ourselves enriched beyond measure.
Webster's Dictionary tells us that a mentor is a guide, a companion, a friend, a listener, a coach or cheerleader, a positive role model, an instructor, a resource and an adviser.
Mentors are good listeners. They are patient, kind, loyal, honest and trustworthy.
Mentors are found in our sisters, friends, moms, grandmas, teachers, doctors, nurses, presidents, first ladies, business leaders, hair dressers, scientists, cupcake makers, farmers, airplane pilots, authors and even taxi cab drivers. Mentors can be anywhere and everywhere, and we often can find them in our own backyard, if we look for them.
I want to tell you about a very special person in my life. Her name was Dr. Margaret Zassenhaus, and she was my hero, my mentor, my friend—not only because of her uncommon courage, but also because of her kindness.
Dr. Zassenhaus was our family physician. I remember days when Mom would squeeze all five of us girls into the car to visit the doctor. We looked forward to visiting Dr. Zassenhaus, who happily greeted us at the door with her thick German accent and ushered us through her waiting room and into her office.
Our visits always went well until the smell of cookies came wafting through the air. Once we began to smell the cookies, one of my sisters would begin to cry, then another and another, and before long, all of us would be in tears. The doctor's mother would come into the office with a plate loaded with warm, freshly baked cookies.
Why would we cry? You see, Dr. Zassenhaus, in her gentle and kind-hearted way, had asked her mom to bake us a treat on the day of our vaccine shots—a reward for what we would endure. But my sisters and I had come to know the routine, and although we loved the cookies, we knew that that smell meant the shot!
Dr. Zassenhaus' compassion and sharing of life lessons also manifested itself in every large and small action—in the way she extended her friendship, joined community boards, cared for patients and listened to them.
She also shared stories of the people who inspired her, like Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Gandhi, and taught us that every human being matters, that even the smallest gesture could affect the world in a constructive way.
I first heard the famous Gandhi charge from her voice: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Schweitzer's message as well: "Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes the ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate."
Margaret was gentle and kind, but she was also courageous. Born in Germany, she was under the rule of Adolph Hitler during World War II. As a young medical student assigned by the Gestapo to monitor Norwegian and Danish political prisoners, she took it upon herself to smuggle in medicines, carry out letters and ultimately save many lives.
When I was a girl, I asked her, "Were you scared when you saved the lives of all those men?" and she replied: "Of course, I was very scared! But I was the only one in a position to help, so I did what I could do." I have come to learn that that is all any of us can do.
A basic, wonderful truth about all people is that through our choices and actions, we can and do make the world a better place. We don't have to do huge things to make a big difference. Even the smallest kindness has the power to resonate through this sometimes difficult and troubled world. Margaret was a mentor to me, and I have shared the lessons she taught me with others throughout my life.
A beautiful fact about mentoring is that it is contagious and the lessons learned will spread from one person to another and throughout generations, if we are lucky.
Day 43 Make an entry in your journal in which you share any experiences you have had with mentoring.
This exercise is designed to help you define or redefine and focus on what you think mentoring is. Write a definition of the word "mentoring." Have you ever mentored someone? How? Who are they? What lessons did you teach? How did you help them? What lessons to you feel you could teach if you were a mentor?
Have you ever been mentored? By whom? What lessons, support or guidance was gifted to you?
Write for as long as you want as you explore and focus on the act of sharing knowledge, supporting, guiding and caring with and about your fellow human beings.
Day 44 Make a list in your journal of the things for which you need or want guidance, teaching or support.
Take time to reflect on what lessons and teachings would be valuable to you at this point in your life. Ask yourself questions like: Are there skills you need to know? Would it be helpful to have some additional support and encouragement for a project you are working on? Do you want to learn something new? Are there changes you feel you must make in your life but simply do not know where to start?
This exploration and focus will help excavate the areas in your life where a mentor may be very helpful. Be honest and be open to areas of your life that are not exactly as you want them to be. This exercise is a chance to expose them and move toward a healthier, more fulfilled, happier you.
Day 45 Make two lists. The first one should be of people you know, andthe second one should be of people you do not know personally, but whom you think might have the knowledge you seek.
Read the list you made yesterday that highlights the things you want to learn. Use today to reflect on which people seem to have those things figured out.
Think about people you admire, look up to and have respect for, people who are experts in the field you are interested in, are doing what you want to be doing, are leaders and are kind.
Your first list has the names of people you could reach out to with a phone call, an email or through a friend. Next to each name, write what you believe this person might be able to teach you. The second list may feature authors, businesspeople, world leaders, celebrities or someone you read about in the paper. Write next to their name what you think they can teach you.
Day 46 Make time to research the people on your list. Learn as much as you can about them.
Now you are about to become a detective. Research and uncover who the people are on your lists. Find out about their lives, work, mission and achievements.
In your journal, make a page for each person you are interested in and paste clippings, write down quotes, jot down stuff you think is important to understanding these folks and what they believe in and, more importantly, why you are interested in them.
This exercise may take longer than a day, and that is fine. Enjoy it, have fun learning how these people followed their dreams and come to know them through this research a bit. I promise you will be moved, inspired, filled with curiosity and invigorated to know more.
Day 47 Make a plan to reach out to one person on your list.
I know—at first, reading this sounds a bit scary. But here is the deal: Most of us are not very skilled at asking for help. We often keep trying to figure it all out on our own.
We otherwise accomplish a lot and may get things done, but when we ask for help and get it, we grow in ways that we could not have foreseen. Once we have asked for help and gotten a little practice with this, we quickly see that it is a valuable tool and one that we could use with great joy in the future.
As always, you must approach this day as you approach all others, with your own personal style and grace. Look at the list of people you know and pick one person you can call or email and tell them what you are looking for.
Let them know they have qualities and skills that you believe would be most valuable to you. Use your list and tell them what the qualities are and that you would love to meet with them to ask some questions.
Once done, look at your other list of people you do not know. You have many choices for continued learning from this wealth of knowledge. You can continue to research, read their books and newsletters, jot down the wise words they have said, watch their movies or go to lectures. You could write to them through their websites or take a class if one exists.
You could try to meet the people you do not know, but the point is that you do not have to meet the people on this second list for them to be guides and teachers.
I write books for young children, and I have always loved the books of Margaret Wise Brown—Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny are two of my favorites. I spent hours this week researching Margaret and reading about her life, her passions and her work. I was so inspired by her philosophy for living and for writing. She passed away many years ago, but her legacy and life lessons have mentored, guided and inspired me.
Day 48 Make it clear to yourself and your mentor what knowledge you seek.
Today, be sure to continue to focus on what you are seeking to learn.
If you meet your mentor, be prepared with a list of the things you admire and would like to learn. Share your story and where you want to grow and ask for advice and support.
Listen...and hear what your mentor has to say. Ask as many questions as possible and take notes. Be a sponge and soak up as much information as you can.
Decide with your mentor how you might continue to reach out for advice and work out a plan for an ongoing relationship.
All of this does not happen in a day. One day falls into the next and the next, and your learning will be ongoing. Keep searching and looking for role models that inspire you, that spark your imagination and your spirit.
Day 49 Make a decision to mentor someone.
You have so much to teach and share with others. There are local groups that need mentors for at-risk kids, and you have friends and relatives who need support and guidance. Schools and churches need volunteers to help others.
You know what you're good at. Share it with others, and you will make the world a better place.
At some point, we are all told to stop playing, to get serious and stop "fooling around." Whether given to us by a parent, teacher or boss, we all pretty much take this command to heart.
So, we get serious, and in doing so, we stop playing, exploring, creating, looking and using our curiosity, and we slowly lose our sense of wonder and joy.
A UCLA study documented something that I think is amazing and a little scary: A child at age 5 is engaged in creative tasks 98 times a day, laughs 113 times a day and asks 65 questions a day.
But, by age 44 the numbers fade to two creative tasks a day, instead of 98; 11 laughs, instead of 113; and six questions, instead of 65.
Do these numbers surprise you? Scare you? They do me. And it's sad that they ring true for so many of us.
We have to turn these numbers around. To bring creativity, laughter and curiosity back into each day. We need more fun, more imagination, more joy.
Are we running so fast, are we so busy, so crazed that we do not have time to laugh, to dream, to get curious? I hope not! Decide right this moment to bring playtime back into your life.
Through play, we learn about ourselves and the world around us. It helps us understand our environment and gives us a chance to learn and to practice new skills. Here are just a few examples of what we learn and practice every time we play.
Day 50 Make a playdate with yourself to do something fun.
Can you believe this week? I am actually encouraging you to play, to goof off, to take a break, to have fun!
In order for this week to work well, you just have to give yourself permission to relax, smile, breathe, laugh, get out of the rat race and play.
Most of us have convinced ourselves that we do not have time for fun, that fun is not important. I could not disagree more. Fun and play are as much a part of life as work and loss are.
Don't wait for another day to pass you by—enjoy this one!
In your journal, write down a list of different ways you love to play. It might be bike riding, hiking, baking, playing card games, doing crafts, sewing, hanging out with friends, golfing, reading or gardening.
Start playing today, and remember these wise words by an anonymous source: "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing."
Day 51 Make a playdate with a friend.
You know how to do this...call up a friend and enjoy the day.
Day 52 Make a playdate with a funny movie and laugh until you cannot laugh anymore.
Charlie Chaplin once said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted."
Instead of dressing quickly and efficiently, play around with the stuff in your closet.
Mix and match the things you have, accessorize and/or wear that pair of shoes that have been in the box for years.
Make stuff up, make it fun, use makeup and make this time a time for fun.
Day 54 Make this the day you play house.
Remember when you were a kid and you "played house"?
I would rearrange my bedroom, make paper flowers to put in vases and stack my stuffed animals in just the right way on my bed. I would move my bed so I could see the stars better at night and feel the morning breeze come through the window.
I loved playing at making my room my own.
As adults, we can do this too—we don't have to live with our living room or bedroom arranged one certain way. Enjoy moving things around, create a little space for tea or reading, or go out in the garden and pick some flowers, light candles, rearrange your books, hang a picture you have been wanting to hang, frame some photographs—do what you want and play at making your house whatever it is that you love.
Day 55 Make up your mind to explore, get curious and discover new things.
The sky's the limit today. Stay in, go out, go to the zoo, make bread too! Walk in the park, sit and watch a lark, visit a pal, go milk a cow, bake a pie, wave to people as they walk by, go to the bank, eat a ballpark frank, dream big, wear a wig, bring joy to all you do and share it with others too.
Day 56 Make a list of the playful things you would like to do or didn't get to this week.
This list will become your play list, your wish list, so go wild.
When it's done, put it on the fridge or your office wall as a reminder to play each day!
Day 57 Make an entry in your journal this week and write about how playing feels.
What did you love? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Is there any work you can make more playful?
The big question is how can you make your life more playful?
Have fun discovering all the ways you can play every day.