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How to Be a Mentor: Inspiring Poets of the Next Generation

This post is written by HoneyGood.com Guest Contributor, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein. She passes on a few suggestions about becoming a great mentor. As a grandparent, this can be done either with your own grandchildren or the children you take under your wing in the same way Mr. Sylvester took Dr. Holstein under his wing.

Dear Mr. Del Sylvester,

Did I ever tell you how much you meant to me? That the phone call you and your wife made to my home that dreary Saturday took me out of the despair I felt about a broken romance. Did you know that engaging with me in long philosophical discussions and teaching me historical facts made me feel special?  Did you realize that you were the grandfather I never had, given that my father’s father died when I was two and my mother’s father died when I was ten?

Mr. Del Sylvester

You were the only loving older man in my life to know me as a teenager. You passed away when I was 20, but you’ve never left me. Did you realize that your ability to see my future strengths and share them with me in a way I could understand has given me the courage to rise above the disappointments of life again and again?

Life Lessons

Even more than rising above, I have enjoyed so many aspects of life that you pointed out to me: a good meal in a great restaurant, travel as a way of creating change and diversion in my life and appreciation for the great divine that surrounds us in life, even when not fully understood. Every creature was important to you and no living being should be hurt in any unnecessary way. You saw us humans as privileged beings, as we have the capacity to work rather than solely the instinct to survive. Yet, with our talents above the animal kingdom comes responsibilities to make our world harmonious. Your truths are those I continue to hold and value!   

Do you know that after all these years, I’ve been trying and becoming to be the person you saw in me? Do you know your picture hangs in our bedroom? A handsome portrait, done in your early seventies? You understood what it meant to be a mentor.

An Outsider’s Guidance

You made clear in one of your letters to me that parents can’t always be helpful with advice. Parents are so involved with their children, the role of parenthood and the accompanying love, all of which make it difficult for them to be objective. Years later as a psychologist, I understand that as well.

However, what I didn’t realize until so many years later is that you had the courage to be for me what my parents couldn’t be: an outsider who loved me and could see my future as more open and possible than my parents could view my destiny. To my mom and dad, I needed a way to make a living, marry a good man, stay in good health and have children. All normal for the time. In addition, you saw the potential for me to be a person with a calling, a calling that would last a lifetime even through losses and changes. You saw me as a potential poet of worldly wisdom, helping bring people into harmony.

In one of your letters you noted, “Man has a job on this planet. Work is a blessing–not a curse. The trouble is that man has not yet come to realize what his real job is. His job is to act as a conservator of life and to use this as the unifying principle by which he will overcome this terrible stress of multiplicity and competition, which now assails us.” You continued that I should stop wasting my time with the worries of dating and finding a boring summer job and begin to give thought “to being the proper subject of the poet of your generation.”

Encouraging Poets of the Next Generation

Barbara at 10 years old

Barbara, 10 years old in her recital gown for dramatic lessons in Fairfield, Connecticut

How genius you were! You inferred what I could be. If you had said I could influence others in powerful ways, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the inference left the door open to becoming someone very special with purpose. What could be a more noble sense of being? What could help someone age through all the turmoil that life presents to any of us?

Nothing could be better than the gift you gave me–a sense that I had a purpose, so much that it showed when I was a teenager. These very gifts of purpose would be enough to carry me through life.  

Mr. Sylvester, thank you for all you gave me. I just reread one of your letters and your words once again gave me the lift I needed. How incredible and wonderful you were.

I hope you somehow get this letter! I love you so much,




Additional Background About Becoming A Mentor

I realize that parents for many reasons can’t facilitate every relationship in the raising of their child. Feel free to jump in and mentor. A few suggestions: have fun with them, teach them skills that no one else might, share your younger days and your values about life, treat them with great respect, let them teach you things they know how to do, stay in touch with them even once they get older and may not communicate with you as often. Reach out. Continue to remind them in novel ways that they are special. Show them how much you value them, even if they don’t always understand it at that moment.

They will realize it someday, as I did. You will help them become poets of their generation. By the way, I bet you are already a poet of your generation.

Readers, I would love to hear from you about who inspired you as you grew up and how you continue to bring your strength, talents and purpose into your life! Comment below to share your thoughts.


About the author: Guest contributor, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein     

Sometimes friends and colleagues call me ‘The Enchanted Self.’ That’s because as a psychologist in private practice for over 35 years, I’ve developed a form of positive psychology called THE ENCHANTED SELF. I’m not enchanted, but I do have many ways and ideas to help all of us feel better through all stages of life. These methods help us recognize our potential, regardless of our age, to grab on to our talents and find again and again the emotional energies needed to be creative, resourceful, resilient and to live joyfully. 

As a woman, a grandmother, and a psychologist, I’m excited to share some of my knowledge and wisdom with you. I’ve written many books, including two books for girls, The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen.  Also a book for adult women, THE ENCHANTED SELF, A Positive Therapy. I’m a filmmaker as well. My short films about girls, tweens and teens have won many awards. Often based on my two books for girls, they are great stepping off points for moms and grandmothers to share with their kids. You can contact me at barbara.holstein@gmail.com or via my website www.enchantedself.com

May 20, 2019

Passages After 50

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  1. Carlene says:

    What a fabulous article, and how very licky this lady was to have this “grandpa she never had” in her life!!! Unfortunately, i dont recall anyone in my growing-up years who really stood out as a mentor. Now i have a son in his early 20s, who pushes and enlightens, and encourages me ( paying back what I’ve given him over the years, as he told me) and Im so grateful for him!! On the other hand I have a bunch of great nieces who i’m endeavoring to positively motivate and inspire

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Your son and his actions sounds to me that he has a wonderful mother. And you have your nieces. You have present mentors. She had mentors from her past. You are both fortunate. Warmly, Honey

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