Monday, December 13, 2010

Mentoring, Giving and Consumer Culture

 “Give whatever you give with love. Then even the tiniest pebble you offer will have great meaning. Its fruit will come back to you a thousand fold, because it is not the pebble that you give, it is love.”
From the book: “Resonate with Stillness” by Gurumayi

Mentors often ask us for guidelines on appropriate gifting for their mentees. The following advice may be helpful for uncles, aunts, teachers, coaches, and others as well. Sometimes in our desire to serve and to be giving we end up promoting this culture of consumerism and devaluing what we really have to offer our youth. So, here are some guidelines to accompany the thoughtful gesture of “giving”.

It is certainly okay to give your mentee a modest gift for the holidays, or for his/her birthday. However, please keep in mind that when you give of yourself (your time, energy and caring) you offer the greatest gift of all.

For material gifting, here are some things to consider:
  • Keep it simple and inexpensive. When your gift is too extravagant you risk being seen as a source for material goods, which changes the nature of the relationship.
  • Gifts that say, “I’m thinking of you” or “I really value this relationship” are the best. Some examples would be a framed photo of you and your mentee at an activity; or something relevant to what you’ve been discussing together, such as a book on careers, or a sports book, or something simple related to your culture. 
  • A good alternative to a material gift would be to take your mentee someplace special.
  • Do not give your mentee a gift that his/her family could not afford.
  • Never give your mentee a gift in the presence of other mentor/mentee pairs. Some students may receive gifts and others might not, which creates problems at school and resentful students. This may also put other mentors in a difficult position.
  • If you are part of a work-site mentoring program your company may decide to give a gift to each of the students participating in the program. That’s okay, because it is seen as coming from the organization, and doesn’t impinge on your individual relationship. It is still recommended that the gifts be modest.
  • If you know that your mentee has a real need for something you can provide, but doesn’t fit into the parameters above, you may want to find a creative way for the mentee to earn it or ‘win’ it from the program. This challenges you to examine your motives, because you don’t get to be the generous ‘Santa’. It is the program that is giving the gift and not you. We believe that in the long run this will serve you, your mentee, and her family better.

Again, we want our youth to understand that the purpose of having a mentor is not to receive cool gifts, but to develop a friendship with a caring adult.

Examine your motives and then give with love.

Peace and blessings,


No comments: