The mission of the Washington Heights & Inwood Pathways Mentoring Program (“WH/I Pathways”) is to recruit and equip community leaders to mentor youth in Washington Heights and Inwood to achieve greater possibilities for a safer, healthier, and thriving neighborhood.
“Showing Up to Notice and Participate”
by Jordan Brensinger, Pathways Mentor
The evening I first met Miguel, I was impressed with his enthusiasm for meeting me and participating in Pathways. All the mentees and their parents joined the mentors and program staff for a fall welcome dinner at the Inwood Academy for Leadership Middle School. It was clear even then that despite the challenges Miguel faced, he had an uncharacteristically kind and sincere heart.
Over the past two years, I have gotten to know Miguel and his family on a much deeper level than that first encounter. I have enjoyed dinner in his home, hosted his family in mine, played sports in the schoolyard by his apartment, attended a school drama production and baseball game, treated for lunches at Jimbos, offered myself up for barber practice—yeah, talk about vulnerability—and many other ordinary and extraordinary moments.
It has not always been easy—I have broken up a fight between siblings, gone weeks without a return phone call or text, and competed for attention with a smartphone on far, far too many occasions. Investing yourself in the life of a local teenager (and I suspect any teenager) has a way of exposing all your insecurities. Do I spend enough time with him? Am I trying too hard to “fix” him? Does he think I’m cool? (probably not, but that’s ok!)
Through it all the Holy Spirit has continued to work in my life—and I believe Miguel’s as well—to teach me more about how exactly “love covers over a multitude of sins.” Despite my flaws, I have been present in ways as diverse as helping Miguel with his math homework, processing his impending high school transition, or journeying with him in his frustration as his family considers moving out of the neighborhood. I have initiated conversations about God that went seemingly nowhere, and yet I learned this spring that Miguel has been attending Wyldlife, a Young Life program for middle school students at Inwood Academy run by one of Pathways’ program directors. “Pay close attention,” I hear the Spirit whispering, “or you might miss it”:
“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19)
Far more often than we would like, our personal lives and community can feel like a desert. But God is making a river. The only question is whether we will show up to notice and participate.