By Kelli Trujillo
When I was making arrangements for what I feared would be a boring, uncomfortable evening, I had no idea it would end up being one of the most influential nights in my life. Betty and Willis had invited my husband and me—married for just a few years—over for a double-date. Betty and Willis were in their eighties and married for a bazillion years.
It was a night involving bowls of snacks offered to us repeatedly, watching a (rather corny) Christian piano concert on VHS, and finishing things off with a hymn sing-along accompanied by Willis on the accordion. But it was also a night of miraculous mentorship—influence on our lives and our marriage that we didn’t expect. The powerful impact of watching a long-married love in action gave us a new vision for our own love. The life-shaping influence of a woman whose passion for God was fervent, whose identity was centered and confident, and whose sense of vocation burned bright, even in the twilight years of her life, emboldened and strengthened my own faith and sense of calling.
That’s how influence happens sometimes, isn’t it? It’s not always from great speakers or organized discipleship programs or weekend retreats. Sometimes it’s in the moments that sneak up on us—those times when we open up and receive from another the gift of presence, of listening, of example.
I want to be a Betty. Not because I’ve got it all figured out, but because I know that we taste the goodness of God when another looks us in the eye, asks about our lives and draws our attention to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our ordinary, sometimes messy existence.
I had a Betty-like moment the other day when a friend who was a decade younger than me asked me to “mentor” her. My initial reaction was to baulk at this suggestion. I thought of her as a peer, so being asked to “mentor” her just made me feel . . . OLD! And the label “mentor” seemed to imply that I’m supposed to be some expert at life who can share all my wisdom.
But then I thought about Betty and the gift she gave by welcoming me into a life that was still journeying, was yet flawed (you should have seen her rolling her eyes in exasperation at Willis!), but was nonetheless willing to invite me in.
So I made a deal with my younger, hipper friend. I will be an unofficial mentor in her life. However, she absolutely cannot use the M-word for me, I joked, because it’s loaded with implications (like I’m old or I’ve got it all figured out). But we will meet often, share each other’s lives and receive grace from the Spirit who is always present with us.
I can’t wait to have a heavenly hymn-sing with Betty and Willis again someday, complete with accordion and loads of caramel corn. But in the mean time I’ll aim to keep living the lesson Betty taught me: Sometimes the most powerful influence can happen in the most ordinary, unexpected ways.
Who has been a Betty in your life? To whom will you offer the gift of your imperfect, journeying, blessed presence?