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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS  - November 2016 - Kansas City

A Great Mentor: Hard to Find, Impossible to Forget 

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


In thinking about what I am grateful for, I began remembering the mentors who have encouraged, inspired and supported me at important times of my life. The good words in the headline summarize important thoughts about mentors. They often appeared when I least expected and most needed them. At this stage of my life most of the important mentors in my life have died and I miss them but, most certainly, have not forgotten them. As I age their gifts become more apparent and their presence more real.


I am reminded of Sister Mary Beth Kelly when I read Robert Frost’s words, “I m not a teacher but an awakener.” She was my high school journalism teacher. Under her tutelage I became the editor of the features and editorial pages and wrote articles as well. She creatively inspired us to think outside the box at a time when that was not the norm. Because of her I have had a lifelong love for and interest in writing.


I think about Sister Owen Marie, the principal of the first school I was assigned to in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I had no training as an educator and had very little idea of what to do with forty-five little third-graders. She invited me to observe her in her 1st grade classroom as she related so amazingly with her students using a puppet named Mrs. Stroodle. She disarmed them and me. Her other huge gift was her kindness, encouragement and gentle leadership towards me as a member of the religious order that we belonged to.


Dr. Kermit Phelps, a psychologist, was the father of one of my closest high school friends and a person appointed to evaluate and counsel young people in the seminary or religious life. I was sent to him because I was depressed and unhappy. His evaluation of me was the reason I was transferred out of elementary education and into a job that became the inspiration for me to become a mental health counselor. I had the job of taking care of eighteen little boys ages six to ten years old that had been abused and abandoned. Caring for these emotionally injured children made me realize that this was what I wanted to do with my life.


I have gone back, over time, to thank these and other people for what they gave me at crucial moments of my life. Each felt they had just done their job, that what they had done was not a big thing and that they were glad I was happy. More mentoring on their part! Their humility and continued support of me was heartening.


Of course some of my mentors have never met me. I have met them through their writings, their actions for others, and their example on the public stage. They will never know that they have mentored me and many others with their words and actions.


Through our words and behavior, we can encourage, inspire and support others. We may not think we are doing this. Others may be watching us, looking to us in ways we do not see. Someone said to me once that we teach with our backs. Others are looking at what we do and learning from that. I think about this often. When I find myself not being as aware or conscious as I want to be, I try to think about how what I am doing affects those around me.


My gratitude for those who have been with me, and continue to be with me, as life’s lessons challenge me, never ends. It seems to grow over time as I gain a bit of wisdom through my life journey.


I would encourage you to think of those who have mentored you in some way from that 1st grade teacher to someone you met last week. Thank them, if you can. Send grateful thoughts and love to them, wherever they may be. Then think about how you can keep that gift going as you do the same for others.

Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to


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