Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A tale of two mentors

We don't know anyone who is a great health professional who has not had some form of mentoring. Mentoring can come in different shapes and sizes. It may be near or remote. It may be long term or for a short period. We seem to be made for mentoring. We need that 'other' to challenge, shape and support our journey. They often see what we don't. They bring out what is hidden. They are living mirrors reflecting back to us our values and qualities. They can somehow unearth what lies buried in the depths of our personalities and hopes. We would like to share a story of mentoring where a bright and caring young woman found her light in a difficult situation.

This is a true story. It is the story of a person known to us. The person is a a young woman called Paula who was aged 16 years old when this story begins. She lived with her parents and found a Saturday job in the South of England where she lived. The job was in a shop that sold all sorts. She described it as selling everything "from Anadin to kits for brewing your own beer."  The owner was a gentle man in his late years. He was kind to Paula and she loved the job. He retired and the business was sold to a man who became the new proprietor and manager.

While the new manager was supportive to other staff he seemed to take an instance dislike to Paula. He would always find fault. "Everything I did was wrong!" she recounts. She was accused of talking to the customers too much. Paula didn't earn a fortune in the shop yet the new boss started docking her wages when things were not to his satisfaction. These are her words of how it affected her.

"He constantly picked away at my confidence."

"I was faced with shifting expectations that I could never meet. Most hurtful of all, it was obvious that I was one of a few special targets, while he was satisfied with a  similar level  of work or effort from others."

"So, how did I survive in the shop.. as things got worse and worse? Not particularly well... After my shift finished I would often cry on the bus back home."

Things came to a head when Paula was talking to and helping a customer. After the customer left the boss attacked her verbally saying, "Who do you think you are girl! This is my shop and you will do as I tell you." Paula was afraid and left the next week. It was a real heartbreak as Paula had connected with the customers and cared for them. She says, "I was so sad as I missed all the regulars who came in... missed the stories, hearing about their families , their lives. I missed being part of that community. It made me realize  though, how much I enjoyed contact with general public & perhaps my calling was nursing." Paula went on to train as a nurse.

Years later when Paula was newly qualified as a nurse the door opened at her first clinic. Her first patient was an old face from the past. It was her old manager. Paula froze and a long talk took place. Paula explained how she was made to feel in the shop. The man broke down in tears and said how sorry he was. He went on to explain his domestic problems at the time. He also talked about how his health had deteriorated. Paula felt compassion for him and found  it in her heart to forgive him.

This story has a number of life lessons in it. The first is that should never treat others badly because we feel bad. The man was suffering and as result was projecting his pain onto others. This is never right. The answer is always to seek ways to hold and deal with it not transmit it. The second is that the saying "every cloud has a silver lining" is true in many cases. The awful situation for Paula turned out to the place where she found out her life vocation. Sometimes it is in the darkness that we find the light. At the little shop where Paula loved her job and suffered so much was where she found her path. The next life lesson is that the person who is meant to mentor or lead us might not be the one we actually get our help and support from. Paula did not get supportive and caring mentoring from her boss. Sometimes the spaces that are meant to nourish and develop us don't. We shouldn't always be surprised. We just need to look elsewhere to receive what we need. The last lesson is that Paula found the support and help she needed in the customers who visited the little shop. They were her help and support. These everyday people were her true mentors. There is a real lesson here. Everyday wisdom is everywhere. All we need is an open heart and mind to access it. Paula did and because of those true mentors - those ordinary folk going into the shop - she has served the sick and infirmed in her role as a nurse for years. Powerful stuff this everyday wisdom!

John Walsh. Support Manager. York Street Health Practice
Louise Brady. Clinical & Strategic Development Lead Practice Nursing. NHS Manchester CCG's North, Central & South 

1 comment:

  1. An excellent story about an exceptional young woman. It must have taken some courage to talk to the man who had caused her so much pain. I see a lesson in forgiveness here, too.