For any of you that have seen my show, you know the significant role that my minister, Dr. Frank Summerfield, played in my life. He taught me forgiveness, he taught me obedience, and he taught me the importance of being prepared. I don’t know the details, and I don’t know the why’s, but Dr. Frank Summerfield’s physical body left this earth on July 2, 2017. Two months later his wife, Joe Nell, passed away on September 9th. The Summerfields are parents to four children, and my heart has been aching for them quite a bit as of late. My brain will never be able to comprehend their pain and sorrow. There is no way that I can accurately imagine what they are all going through and dealing with. They lost their biological parents, their most trusted spiritual guides, and their closest friends. Simultaneously the world has lost two earth angels.
I don’t know where the children are finding the strength to wake up each morning, and I don’t know how Mitch is finding the courage to lead the church, picking up where his father left off. What I do know is that Dr. Summerfield believed in being prepared. I can recall him saying, “If you’re always prepared, you never have to get ready.” And though I know it’s frighteningly difficult, I believe that Mitch and his siblings are prepared for this.
Merriam-Webster defines prepare as: “to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity; to put in a proper state of mind.”
I’m most captivated by the word beforehand, as it suggests foresight. It’s the kind of foresight that you use when you grab your umbrella before you leave the house because the grapevine has told you that it might rain today. It’s the same foresight that prompts you to fuel up before a long road trip, to study for an upcoming exam, and to keep unopened packages of toilet paper on hand. Exercising foresight feels good, because you feel like you've one-upped the universe’s efforts to salty your mood. You might even go so far as to utter, “Not today, satan! I’ve got my umbrella!” You smile, you chuckle, and you’ve lost no pep from your step because you were ready.
But what about when you don’t know what’s looming around the next corner? How do you use foresight in those instances? How can you prepare for circumstances that you have no prior knowledge of?
Let me show you what I mean…
I don’t care whether the sport is soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, hockey, football, or boxing, no matter how talented the player is, he/she still needs a coach. As a player is engaged in playing, it is impossible for him/her to be 100% aware of everything that’s happening during the game/match. In team sports, there is no way that you can see what’s happening behind you. In one-on-one matches, you may be unaware that you’ve repeatedly responded the same way to your opponent in a certain situation time and time again.
Spotting those potholes is the coach’s job. Your coach is there to warn you about what might be up ahead, and to train you how to remain proactive, so that you’re not constantly on the defensive—barely able to effectively respond to the trickery being dished out by your opponent. Your coach’s job is to train you how to prepare for the situations that you can’t yet see, for the ones that you have no knowledge of, and for the ones that you’ve not even imagined. Mentors are just the same.
If you’ve done your homework, your mentor is someone that’s done what you’re trying to accomplish. They’ve traveled the road that you’re hoping to walk, and they’ve mastered those things that you’re still trying to figure out. They have been where you’re hoping to go, and it’s your mentor’s job to give you a heads-up about fly balls that might be coming your way. They are your coach and meteorologist, warning you about what’s ahead, and giving you tips on how to deal with it.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve said it, and I’m confident that it won’t be the last: everyone needs at least one mentor. Everyone needs that person that’s on your team, that’s rooting for you, and that has your best interests in mind. Your mentor keeps you motivated when you’ve taken a beating, and they know just how to inspire you to keep going. They are how you prepare for the unknown. They give you the foresight that you don’t have, and they keep you from being reactive. They teach you how to be proactive so that you never feel like you’ve got to get ready. Your mentor gives you calm during stormy weather.
Life is challenging enough. It gets even more difficult when you feel like you’re constantly putting out fires. That’s exhausting. Operating in that lane sucks the joy out of your life, but you don’t have to stay there. Every one of you can enjoy the benefits of mentorship—all you have to do is ask. If you’ve met someone that inspires and motivates you, just ask, “Will you mentor me?” It’s really that simple. Most people will be flattered that you had the cahones to ask, and if they are unable to comply, they will point you to someone equally as capable.
So I suppose that’s my message to you today. Find a mentor. Stay connected, and take heed to his/her suggestions. Unless it’s your full-time job, there’s no need for you to constantly be putting out fires. You deserve a different life. Treat yourself. It’s time to feel like you always have an umbrella on hand.
Jasmynne-Shaye Robbins is the author of Still Standing and The Golden Penny. She is also the writer, producer, and performer of the acclaimed one-woman show, "Stepping On a Few Toes." Connect with Jasmynne-Shaye at JasmynneShaye.com.