I was thinking about my first few years of youth work in West Virginia. I had become really close with a student and his friends while working as a youth pastor/outreach worker at a small church in a small town. This young man and his friends weren’t always the best kids, but they definitely were fun to be around. They challenged me daily, in fact, they still do, but more so during the first few years. This young man, James (name is changed for privacy), and I became really close. I looked at him like a little brother.
I started working with him one-on-one in a bible study, I would take him out to lunch, I showed up at his birthday parties, and definitely allowed him to take me on adventures that put my life at risk many times. It was great. He looked at me as a mentor and I tried my best to lead him in a healthy direction. I only had so much time with him, so I needed to make sure I poured as much into him as possible.
He would make risky decisions and would put himself in positions that ended in trouble, but he knew I always had his back. I tried to be as present as possible when he was in need. As time went on, he knew he had to step away from the friends that were bringing him down. One day, his friends were drinking and doing things that would just end up poorly, so he chose to step out of it. They looked at him and said “Looks like you’ve got a little bit of Mexican in you.” All he could do is say yes and go home.
The next day he and I were hanging out, probably playing video games or something and he shared this story with me. I looked at him with a confused look and asked the question “what did they mean by ‘a little bit of Mexican in you’?” I was a little offended since I am Hispanic and felt they were attacking Mexican people, but then he looked at me and said “it’s because of you”. My jaw dropped. By them saying he had a little bit of Mexican in him they were saying my influence was rubbing off. He was now, although just a little bit, like me.
I looked at him and said “I’m sorry they said that to you.” He proceeded to say “Don’t apologize. If I was going to be told I was like anyone, I want to be like you.” Wow. What an honor that was for me. It still is. Even if today James has decided to make some poor choices, he still knows I am here. For that point in his life I made a mark and others saw it. Who knows if there has been anyone else, but at least I know for one kid I made a difference.
Is there anyone in your life that you have a little bit of in you? I hope you can leave a little bit of you in the life of someone else.