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From Mentorship to Friendship

I recently read I'm Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers. The book details Tim Madigan's (the author) relationship with TV's Mr. Rogers. The book isn't a simple retelling of interviews and phone calls. Rather it shows how the compassion of one individual can be contagious and improve the lives of many others in the process. The book is about Tim's life more than it is Mr. Rogers' and in many places I choked up. 

For real.

The book is that great. It's touching, poignant, memorable, encouraging, hopeful, and inspiring. It won't make you necessarily wish you knew Mr. Rogers - and this is the brilliant point - but it will make you long for deep and meaningful friendship.

What makes Madigan's relationship with Rogers special is that a shift occurs where the relationship changes from mentorship to friendship. At some point, the relationship is less about advice and more about love. It changes from the sharing of wisdom to the sharing of time and affection.

This doesn't happen for everyone in life, but it is very special when a mentor can become a friend. It's happened on a handful of occasions for me, and never to the degree that it did for Tim and Fred. But when you realize a relationship is reciprocal in its need for connection, please know that you're in a very special place. That friendship should be guarded above all else.

It's for this reason I often encourage students to seek out a mentor early on in college, in one's first semester if possible. This may be an assigned advisor, an older fraternity brother, a challenging professor, a focused coach, or a caring staff member. The role they have within a university matters less than the role they will play in your life.

And it's important to choose mentors wisely. After all, they may become a friend.

Selected quotes from I'm Proud of You

Another time he [Fred] wrote that he had discovered the South African word ubuntu, which means: "I am because we are." "Isn't that lovely!" he said. "My identity is such that it includes you. I would be a very different person without you."
"There's a loving mystery at the heart of the universe, just yearning to be expressed."
"In times of tragedy, look for the helpers. They're always there. Perhaps on the sidelines, but the helpers are always there."