He’s exactly what you would expect of a 6th grade boy.

High energy, an alternately charming and maddening blend of extreme silliness and budding sarcasm, an affinity for jokes involving rude body noises and a distaste for homework.

He can be tough, he puts effort in to his “devil may care” demeanor.

Tried to cover up his tears when the class watched a documentary on poetry.

He’s an older brother, people look up to him – and he knows it.  He tries to be cool and put together, in his own 6th grade way.

“Did you forget about me?”

He asks with an edge of sarcasm on his voice, but I hear the truth underneath.

We keep a running list of students we work with in our after school and Sunday morning programs who would like to be mentored by an adult in our church.

This boy has been on the list for over a year now.

“Did you forget about me? Kevin told me he would find me a mentor a year ago!”

My heart broke a little.

The excuses are easy when they’re just between you and your calendar, exchanged through phone calls and emails.

“I’m way too busy right now.”

“I just don’t have the time.”

“I don’t really ‘do’ kids.”

“I’m just not interested.”

But now I am staring this boy in the face with nothing but excuses in my hands.

“I’m sorry, but the people who could be your mentor are just too busy, they don’t like kids and they’re not interested in you.”

It won’t work.

So instead I try to explain the process.  I make excuses for my peers who have all survived middle school, figured out the secret to long division and are no longer (as) mystified by the opposite sex.  My peers who have so much to offer this boy, even as they make excuses with plates that are too full and hands that are too empty.

“Well, you see, there are lots of kids who want mentors and not always enough adults who are able to mentor.”

The words sound hollow even as they roll off of my tongue.

He smiles but his eyes are sad, proof that he understands more than what I just said.

This post has also been published on the Transformation City Church blog.

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