July 2019 TeamMates of the Month: Celebrating Life
The look on Ron’s face epitomizes patience and delight. He’s listening to Aden, his mentee of three years, as he launches into a lengthy explanation of what he plans to do in the future.
“Well, I like to collect things: pocket knives, for example.” The freckled-faced, soon-to-be-sixth-grader tilts his head, and scrunches his forehead. “I guess I could be a salesman. I really like to talk to people.” He continues verbalizing a stream of thoughts. All the while, his TeamMate sits in rapt attention, shaking his head in agreement, smiling, and encouraging the energetic young man to express his ideas and dream about his future.
“Aden’s smile is contagious,” Ron says. “I look forward to seeing him every week. He’s easy to like.”
Aden is still thinking about his future as Ron speaks, and he inserts another possibility. “I want to be a leader. I got invited into a leadership program at Tae Kwon Do. I get to help the younger kids.”
Ron redirects his attention to Aden, giving him a kind-eyed grin, eager to share his achievement.
Originally, Ron signed up to be a mentor in Benkelman, Nebraska, but the program never materialized. After retiring, he moved to Lincoln and applied to mentor after again hearing of TeamMates’ impact at St. Mark’s Methodist Church.
The weekly interactions with Aden positively impact Ron. “The thing I’ve learned is that old people sometimes forget how much fun it is to learn and examine the world. Aden has such a positive outlook and wants to try new things.”
Aden picks up on Ron’s comment. “Yea, I like new things, like Chess. Ron taught me how to play. We both like Chess.” Aden eyes Ron looking for confirmation.
Ron accommodates. “Yes, we’re both competitive and fun-loving. When we finish a game, we congratulate each other.” He goes on to praise his mentee’s ability to anticipate his moves and strategize, proving Aden an able competitor.
“I love having laughs,” Aden continues. “We have fun being together. I get to pick the games, but I always choose the ones I know that we both love.” He races off toward the game bin in the corner of the media center to gather several favorites.
This gives Ron a chance to share the growth he’s seen in Aden over the years. “He’s learned to control his emotions better. He’s more patient and has come a long way in improving his social skills.”
Aden returns to the table with several games. The match shares memories of past competitions and explains game concepts. Sometimes Ron and Aden take a break from playing board games to visit the gym for physical activity.
“We invented a game using foam sticks and tennis balls,” says Aden in his upbeat manner. “It’s so fun.”
Ron agrees. “I tell adults all the time that if they don’t mentor, they are missing out. The energy and fun I get from Aden makes my day better.”
With the mention of “energy,” Aden rattles off his athletic pursuits including a year of soccer, several years of flag football, and one of tackle football. “I’m fast,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone. “But I’m careful in tackle football, because I’m small and I get trampled.”
He and Ron share a chuckle and continue chatting, celebrating their friendship and enjoying each moment of their time together.