Every kid is one caring adult from being a success story.   Josh Shipp

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a friend. I was on my way into town to meet with some of my former students who are now practicing clinicians. Let’s call him Dan. I was anxious to do so because I knew that both he and his wife had been experiencing some medical problems. Typical of my friend, Dan shrugged off his own issues, but an animated conversation ensued about his fears and concerns about his wife.

Later, however, the conversation moved to our children. Dan is a real family man, and his investment in his children is evident. Beyond his own, however, he also mentors other kids, particularly those who come from less than ideal family circumstances. I know that he is a real source of support and wisdom for these young people.

At this point, I should share that Dan is not a clinician. He is not a teacher. His profession is irrelevant to this newsletter, but his message to his mentees is not. As we met the other afternoon, he explained that he often tells these kids:

“You are perfect, just the way you are.”

Clearly, Dan’s message is not a literal one but one of encouragement and support. I shared his message with my student/therapists when we met the next day, and we discussed the importance of encouraging and recruiting mentors for children.

One of the saddest impacts on children of divorce, addiction, or mental illness is personal diminishment. Such kids see themselves as unworthy or, perhaps, partly to blame for the home situation that they played no part in creating. As Pat Conroy wrote in his classic novel, Prince of Tides, such boys and girls are “hostages in the war waged between their parents.” Even in the midst of his own personal challenges, Dan understands this fact and seeks to remediate it with other children..

The psychologists, Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward, authored a fine text many years ago entitled, Born to Win. The essential message of the book and its title is perfectly rendered in its cover. It is the photo of a little girl, perhaps two or three years of age. She stands at water’s edge, her arms spread as the waves gently lap at her feet. It is an image of both joy and wellness. The picture perfectly captures the authors’ theme that we all enter the world feeling good about ourselves – happy, confident, and without fear. For some children, life’s circumstances erode that optimism and positive sense of self. Their joy is erased by fear, and their confidence replaced by doubt.

Dan’s mission appears to be in the midst of his own challenges to do his part to heal a few children with his simple message about “perfection.” I hope that those children listen and believe Dan’s message.

Homework for my readers: Be “Dan” for a young person in your life. It’s pretty simple, actually, if you take the time to do so. Magically, the smile you put on a child’s face will find its way onto your own.

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” Winfrey