Praise Song for the Day: Mentors Matter: True Norths

(From Deposit Photos)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

If yesterday, which was officially the Ides of March, came and went without incident (again), then why does it live in infamy throughout history? What does it mean to be the day after an infamous, fateful, fretful day? What are these dates in history? March 16, 44 BCE. April 15, 1865. June 13, 1963. November 23, 1963. April 5, 1968. September 12, 2001. January 7, 2021. Certainly, the people who lived during the time of these momentous events remember well where they were. I remember the 1968 date and onward, but the other dates, not so much.

What I do remember about the day after 9/11 is that I was supposed to be flying home from Chicago on the day before, which was the date after my father’s funeral and burial. Instead, I flew out on 9/10 on United Airlines. The thing that got me on that plane was just darned luck. For me, my father was gone, and there was nothing left to do but to leave and head home to Portland, Oregon.

What these various days point towards is a kind of “True North” epiphany that cannot be ignored. It literally makes us stop to take notice, as mentors do.

On the day after 9/11 in Portland, I remember the quiet of the sky. Nothing was moving up above. Even birds seemed rather sluggish and desultory.

But what if those dates were different? What if they teach us how to be in the world? What if they were instructive? Indeed, all of them taught us something new.

I call them my “True North” Days because they are a mark in the annals of history — sometimes our own personal history and sometimes that of the entire planet — that will never return. Since this week’s Praise Song is about something as nebulous as “mentors,” then it is important to posit the idea that the true wisdom of the first Mentor was as a way to remember our way. A true north. When my dad died, I lost part of my compass, like the arrows pointing in the right direction had come off. But now, I know that he guides me better than he ever did when he was actually here.

What are your “True North” days? What special significance do you give to your weekly calendar? It’s just a day, after all. How might you encourage others to find their important days?

— — — — —

Like a daily gratitude practice, Praise Song for the Day will be a way of appreciating what we know we know in a different and perhaps even profoundly deeper way. This column takes its name from a poem of the same title by Elizabeth Alexander called “Praise Song for the Day,” delivered twelve years ago at the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. Clap back if you dig the piece.




Lives in Andover, New Hampshire

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Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Lives in Andover, New Hampshire

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