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Who Are Your Mentors?

My 23 rd birthday - the year my father died - marked a new low. I had just graduated from college, and I was “camping out” in friend’s places in Washington D.C. I was looking for a job.

As I walked to my old Ford Fairlane that morning I noticed shirts, jeans, underwear laying in random piles in the middle of the street. I looked again. My heart pounded. This was my stuff, my possessions. Someone had broken into my car.

Seeing my clothes tossed helter-skelter summed up what I felt on my special day - scattered, scared shitless.

There was no putting my tail between my legs and going home again because Dad was gone. He had always been my “base camp,” the place I could return to and feel safe.

Here I was in the big city, trying to begin my new adult life. But how? What did I

want to do with my life? What could I do?

I will forever be indebted to my mom’s younger brother - my Uncle Pete. (Yes, Mom and Dad gave me his name because they adored him) I remember his arm on my back, the day Dad passed. He whispered in my ear, “Pete, I know I cannot replace your dad. But I will do my best.”

That fall when I was hopping from place to place in the nation’s capital, my uncle said to me, “Why don’t you come stay at our house in Bethesda? I can help you get you on your feet.”

It took me half a second to say, “Yes!”

Beyond the amazing hospitality that he and my Aunt Alice provided - meals and a roof over my head - what I treasure most were the conversations I had with my Uncle Pete as he drove us into the city in his little red Volkswagen bug. (I was volunteering for a congressperson on capitol hill).

I can still see his lanky body in that dinky car, his right hand on the gear shift, me in the passenger seat.

He pushed me, “Pete, what do you really want out of life? What is your passion? What are you really committed to?”

Now on the cusp of my 70th birthday, I think of how timeless those questions are. I am asking them still.

Moreover, what stays with me most is not only the questions but the memory of the person asking them. My Uncle Pete. In the year that my dad died, when I was scared shitless, he was true to his word, he helped me find my feet.

How fortunate we are if we have a mentor, a coach, someone who cares. Who are the “Uncle Pete’s” in your life?

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