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A Helping Hand

August 1, 2020 (339 words)

Little kids like to learn new things. And adults in their general vicinity usually take pleasure in helping them make a new discovery. Then time passes, the kids are no longer little, and this happy dynamic sort of falls apart.

Children who have grown older are often embarrassed by what they don’t know, and this persists into adulthood. People will avoid any situation – personal or professional – where their relative lack of expertise may be exposed. Once they were open and receptive, now they have come face-to-face with the limits of their ability to process new information. Not everyone possesses the same level of cognitive ability, and when you have less you realize it right away.

This isolating embarrassment is made worse by how those in the know tend to hoard their knowledge. They show no interest in sharing, and are often smug toward folks they feel are less smart.

There are many factors that play into this. Some people just enjoy the sensation of superiority. Others don’t want to freely offer anything for fear of damaging their own prospects. The cold shoulder given to strangers, and especially to immigrants and minorities, is often a simple defense mechanism deployed to protect one’s own job security.

This only points up why there is nothing better in this life than finding a mentor. Most everyone who succeeds on the job benefits from the input of such an advisor, no matter how sporadic the suggestions may be. But these special souls are few and far between. There are many more “mentees” in need of guidance then there are those willing to offer it.

And the few altruistic, generous ones who do walk among us are naturally inclined to favor the brightest or most charismatic novices, or the ones who remind them most of themselves. To help someone you can’t necessarily relate to, or who lacks an abundance of personal charm, just because that person is obviously in need, is not so much the job description of a mentor, but a missionary.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
August 1, 2020

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