Finding Fun in the Little Things: A Mentoring Story

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By Daryl Haskell

International Mentoring Day is celebrated on January 17, while honoring Muhammed Ali, who engaged people globally through formal and informal mentoring, while advancing diversity and inclusion. The day gives us time to reflect on the great influence and meaning that mentoring provides and how it contributes to a better world. Mentors have the power to transform lives.

We are taking the month to highlight ICAN staff and providers in our Independent Practice Association (IPA) network who mentor our clients and help make a different every day.

The following is a touching, fun-filled personal statement from Community Based Support Specialist Daryl Haskell on how mentoring has become so meaningful in his life.

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First and foremost, let me say unequivocally that my role as a mentor has given me far than I could have ever given to these kids. I know, I know, it sounds so cliché, doesn’t it?! But I have found mentoring just happens to be one of those paradoxical endeavors in life where you set out to do a good thing for someone else and you end up receiving the greater blessing. 

Initially, I got into mentoring with the thought there could be no greater calling than to give of my time, attention and resources to those, who could never repay me in any way. After all, we’re talking about working with kids. What could they possibly give to me? Well, for starters, they reminded me how to find fun in the little things: riding bikes, climbing monkey bars, spitting sunflower seeds, chewing bubble gum and playing UNO are just a few of the fun things I’ve found myself doing with my new, considerably younger friends. I feel like Tom Hanks in the movie “Big,” playing the role of a child trapped in an adult body. Sounds crazy, but it’s really true. And the best days as a mentor seem to be the days when we go in with no plan or the plan goes horribly awry. This works great with my more relaxed organizational skill set. These kinds of days have led me to explore local nature trails, bike paths, fishing holes and (on days where the weather doesn’t cooperate) the rich resources of our local libraries. Who knew there were computers and movie DVDs in there?!

Being a mentor reminded me what a great childhood I had. Now, I get to share that childhood with some all-too-willing accomplices. Funny thing is, the effects of rediscovering my childhood spilled over into my own family life.  Now, I find myself much more willing to play board games and do kid-things with my own kids than I ever was willing to do before. I like to think they find me more fun to be around, too. For my 19 year-olds, I may just be more of an annoyance, but even with them, my newfound willingness to explore has led to more interesting day trips and family adventures. Sum it up to say, being a mentor has helped me to become a better dad, even if I do trash-talk a bit too much when we play UNO. 

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Finally, being a mentor has given my life greater meaning. I feel like I’m doing what I was put on the earth to do. I always loved my role as a dad, even if I made my share of mistakes along the way (and I certainly did). Now, I have a job where the most important thing I do is to simply show up. I don’t have all the answers to life’s big questions, but I do know how to show up. As I do that, I know I am making a difference to some very deserving kids. The feeling I get at the end of each day, knowing that my mere presence made someone smile … well, not much compares to that feeling. It’s like the peace and contentment you feel when you had your best game of the year. You know, the one game that makes all of the hard work worth the effort except, in this case, all you had to do was show up.

So, if you find an adult male in the toy section of Walmart playing catch and trying on super hero masks with his 10-year-old friend, please don’t be alarmed. He’s probably a local mentor just rediscovering his inner child.

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About Daryl Haskell
Daryl Haskell began working for ICAN in fall, 2020 as a Community Based Support Specialist.  He came to our agency with extensive experience as a Child Care Worker, Case Planner, mentor and Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Worker. A former high school hockey player himself, he has volunteered as a high school assistant hockey coach. Daryl holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Lawrence University.