That’s the number of adults, besides parents, that experts say kids need to thrive. Kids need extra-familial adults who love them and get to know them. They need adults who know their hopes and dreams; who will guide them in important decisions; who can talk honestly about what is going on in their lives; who can offer wisdom when life is confusing. Kids need adults who will pray for them.
Think about this for a moment. Are you on any kid’s list of five?
Last month I was at a fitness club when I looked across the room and saw an older man working out. As I watched him move about, there was something strikingly familiar about him. He reminded me of my boss at my first job.
I was just fourteen years-old when I started working at a Chinese take-out. My boss, Ray, was the owner of the restaurant. He had immigrated from China in his early twenties.
As I continued to watch the eighty-year-old man at the club, I kept wondering “Could that be Ray?” I hadn’t seen him in nearly 30 years. I finally walked up behind him and called out, “Ray?”. Startled, he turned around and said, “Yes?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was him!
I told him who I was and he said, “Oh my. I haven’t seen you in a long time!” We stood there for the next twenty minutes catching up on family and recalling some our fondest memories at the old restaurant. Soon his wife came over and we laughed and talked some more.
After a while, I said to him, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but I wanted to let you know that you had a great impact on my life. You taught me some really important lessons that I’ll never forget.”
Ray was one of my five in high school.
My dad had passed away just a few years before I started working for Ray. In fact, the reason that I took a job at fourteen was because we needed the money. My job was pretty simple. Make the rice and cut and wash celery. I cut so much celery that I always smelled like celery!
Ray stepped in and became my mentor. He was my real life Mr. Miyagi (see “Karate Kid”). From him I learned the value of hard work and doing a job well. I learned the joy of earning my own paycheck and taking pride in what I was doing.
I got my first lesson in economics from Ray. One day when I was trimming the leaves off of a stalk, I had discarded a two-inch piece of celery. Ray walked by, picked up the discarded piece and asked me in his heavy accent, “Why you throw away my profit?”
After my dad passed away I will admit that I sort of lost interest in school. I didn’t try very hard and my grades reflected that. One day, Ray came and told me to bring my report card to him the following day. I did as he asked, and I remember as he looked at it and shook his head. “This won’t do. You are too smart to have grades like this. Time to get serious.” influence
My mom had been saying basically the same thing, but for some reason, when Ray said it I knew that it was time to get serious about school. My grades and my attitude increased dramatically.
One day I came to work and there was a small gift sitting on a crate of celery with my name on it. Ray came over and said “For you. Open.” I opened it up and it was a small wooden plaque that said “Outstanding Service Award” with my name engraved on it.
The fact that Ray took an interest in me and the other students who worked for him had a huge impact on all of us. It was the kind of impact that a special teacher often has.
Seeing Ray reminded me that we all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of other people’s kids.
What would happen if we all started being more intentional about pouring into our young neighbors or the friends or our own kids?
What if we took the time to get to know their hopes and dreams?
What if we took the time to listen to their questions?
What if we pointed out the gifts that we saw in them? What if we challenged them to grow in ways they never dreamed possible?
Kids need adults who will care for them, love them, know them, pray for them.
Why not us?
Is there a kid out there who will say “You are one of my five?”
I want to encourage you to spend some time in the next month identifying kids outside your family you could mentor and love.
Who knows, maybe someone will walk up to you thirty years from now and tell you about the impact that you had on their life.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn, Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries