The other day, I observed a mother obviously frazzled in a line at a store. Her three young kids were demanding of her attention and her hands were full, including the smartphone ringing in her hand. She was aggressive and abrupt to the sales person and her children. She appeared exhausted and hanging on by a thread.
As I observed quietly I sensed for some reason that she didn't want to be a difficult person but she didn't know how to get out of her behavior. The more she ignored her kids, the more disruptive they became. I wasn't the only one in the store uncomfortable with the situation.
I couldn't help but think about what this mother was teaching her children. Mentoring offers opportunity in the simplest way in people's lives if only we would be able to identify it at the time. Here was an opportunity for the mother to demonstrate to her kids how to behave better and that our behavior is a choice that we make, not something inflicted upon us.
There are mothers everyday making choices for their children and at night they remain sleepless, wondering if their leadership example has sunk in. Us mothers would move heaven and earth for our kids, but our circumstances around the world are night and day. I read recently of one woman in Mozambique who reportedly walked more than twenty miles with her children to flee flood waters in Mozambique. Apparently she made the same trek regularly for thirteen years. Now that's sacrifice.
I think some of the most important mentors in life are the quiet unsung heroes, like the mother who makes choices to lead by example, the son or daughter who cares for elderly parents and relatives, the parent who stands quietly at all hockey games or dance recitals, the friend who lends an ear to a friend who needs to talk or the mom who rescues their kids from flood waters. This is mentoring in its most pure form; it is important work that we often ignore because we get so caught up in our day to day busy lives. Leading by example is to do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do. It's a goal we should all have.