What Constitutes a Good Mentor?
A review of Google suggests a variety of answers such as; A satisfied mentee; A strong sense of self; a good listener; someone offering support, encouragement and listening; a person who is willing to share of themselves; mentors try to unite the head and the heart; shares knowledge and wisdom and draws out the possibilities; it’s vision, voice and vocation – building a relationship; or someone who can offer advice on issues besides academic matters.
Bill Keaton has been all that and more.
William puts the “B” in Boxer
Discharged from Brighton Hospital for “poly-substance” (Dontcha’ just love those clinical terms? Poly means “all of the above”) addiction in 1981, they told me to get a sponsor right away. Seeing as how I didn’t wind up in Brighton at the end of a winning streak…their cautionary words of admonishment were taken seriously.
From there to a 3/4 house in Royal Oak next to Holiday Market was quite a transition. A sponsor was required. Who? The only guy I knew who was up for the job was my Dad’s sponsor. Why not? Good enough for pops…good enough for the Hurls.
Riiiing. Hello..is this Bill?
“Why yes…who is this?”
This is Tim Hurley.
“Hello Bahrutha! How are you doing?”
“How can I help you Tim?
Almost bursting into tears at the opening he provided, it was all I could do to blurt out just getting out of treatment and that I needed a sponsor…stat.
“Sure, it would be an honor & privilege”
Whew…that was easier than I thought…though it wasn’t quite the reaction expected,–so I went on to assure him that I’d not be a burden or pain-in-the-ass. Well….that one would turn out to be quite a stretch. Bill cut me off in his soon to become familiar inimitable manner.
“Bahrutha’ …carrying the message is never a burden…it’s a joy. I’ll pick you up for a meeting tomorrow.”
This would be one of the many points of wisdom Bill would impart over the next three decades.
Many people feel that being a mentor requires special skills, but mentors are simply people who have the qualities of good role models.
Mentors listen with full eye contact and full attention.
Mentors are practical-They give insights about keeping on task and setting goals and priorities.
Mentors guide-Mentors are there to help their mentees find life direction, never to push them.
Mentors educate-Mentors educate about life and their own careers.
Mentors provide insight-Mentors use their personal experience to help their mentees avoid mistakes and learn from good decisions.
Mentors are accessible-Mentors are available as a resource and a sounding board.
Mentors criticize constructively-When necessary, mentors point out areas that need improvement, always focusing on the mentee’s behavior, never his/her character.
Mentors are supportive-No matter how painful the mentee’s experience, mentors continue to encourage them to learn and improve.
Mentors are specific-Mentors give specific advice on what was done well or could be corrected, what was achieved and the benefits of various actions.
Mentors care-Mentors care about their mentees’ progress in school and career planning, as well as their personal development.
Mentors succeed-Mentors not only are successful themselves, but they also foster success in others.
Mentors are admirable-Mentors are usually well-respected in their organizations and in the community.
This only begins to describe some of Bill’s qualities. A good sponsor has a deep relationship with God and will always point his sponsee to develop their own relationship with God as Father. On that note, a nudge just hit to quit writing and go visit my dear friend Bill at the Georgian Inn at 16 & Adams in Bloomfield. I’ll finish this when returning.
Am very grateful for the still small voice of direction. This is what happened when arriving at the facility.
Nice looking isn’t it? The grand facade and pillars are nothing more than lipstick on a pig.
Now ask what the Hurls real opinion is of Heartland’s “Georgian Inn”.
What a trip. Back @ the pad by 10:30PM…but not before seeing to it that Psycho Boy was moved from Bill’s room. Don’t be fooled by the pretty portico or Bloomfield address. This place is one real dump. You’d be surprised at what Heartland charges. For what? Yeah…I know. Everyone is overworked and underpaid. Typical Corporate scum sucking the lifeblood out of our seniors while providing a minimal staff to patient ratio. It’s not really the fault of staff. On more than one occasion I’ve come to see Bill, checked his room first…and then found him like this in the TV Day Room.
Note the severe swelling on top of his left foot and the swollen discoloration of his ankles. We told those morons that he needs to have his feet up at all times. While the setting appears to better than most…and it is…finding my friend like this sucks. Looking through the door, the so-called nurses station is in clear view. One day he’d been in this position for over four hours. This is nothing more than a glorified prison day room. Can’t they hook Bill up with some kind of head rest? The key is to never lose your cool, stay in the face of the staff and win over the orderlies one-by-one. Bring em’ doughnuts…just like fat, lazy cops.
But I digress…again. Grrrr
To their credit, Bill’s family is all over this sordid mess and other arrangements are being made. In the meantime, it
turns out his roomie had dementia. With Bill’s daughter’s help, we tracked down the Director of Nursing and made clear…in no uncertain terms…that we didn’t care if the guy had a bad case of Tourette’s Syndrome. He had to go. Thankfully, grace was present to buffer Billy from the unfolding drama. However, there are still times of razor-sharp lucidity when Bill knows exactly what’s going on. This was one such occasion. Without his hearing aids, Bill could not really make out what his Mr. Dobbs was yelling about.
However, he clearly discerned the tone.
“Bahrutha…you know what that voice is? It’s the voice of the enemy”
Hahaha…that’s my Billy. I’m so glad he said that, because I came real close to throwing the drape open and bitch-slapping his roommate. I don’t give one flying fudge at a rolling doughnut as to what your condition is. You’d best not threaten my friend with any kind of mayhem or you’ll experience a form of mayhem you never saw coming. Yet, even in his defenseless state, Bill was still sponsoring this sponsee. He knew I was about to blow a gasket. What good would it do to go off on the staff or his roommate? None. Sending a complaint to Corporate Headquarters got the attention of the Director of Nursing. Bill dug it. This was his reaction. Suffice to say Bill was happy.
Now he has a private room…at least for a night.
After the dust settled, Bill & I settled in to watch the Detroit Tigers take the 1st game of the playoffs from the Oakland A’s. Towards the 7th inning, Bill began to grunt and make noises. What’s wrong Bill? You OK? “O’ bahrutha…I can’t take the suspense of this game!“ Yes you can dude. Don’t be a wuss. This is fun. We are Charlie Sheen winning! “Well praise God for that Tom!” (He’s taken to calling me by my Dad’s name. That’s OK…I’ve been called a lot worse) Then came time for him to have a movement. When Bill has to go…he has to go. A couple of nurses aides were procured for that mission. They came promptly to help my friend. I bent over, kissed Billy on the top of his head and told him it was time for me to go as I desired to leave him with whatever dignity is left.
“Bahrutha…God bless your heart. Will you be back tomorrow?”
Sure dude. Wild Horses won’t keep me away
Bill Keaton has been my sponsor, friend, brother, mentor and father figure for more than three decades. He’s walked with me through recovery, relapse, victory, defeat, freedom & incarceration and never gave up hope. Not once. I’d be one sorry son of a bitch to not reciprocate now. It’s just not an option. I love him to the moon and back. Though it seems many of them have forgotten, God has used him to impact the Hurley family like no other. Heck, he baptized a whole bunch of Hurley’s in my parents backyard swimming pool in Troy one afternoon…much to the chagrin of my Catholic Moms, but she had enough sense and wisdom to keep her yapper shut on that one. One time early in our relationship, we were pulling into the parking lot of an AA meeting at 11 Mile Road & Woodward in Royal Oak. Bill suggested I try out a new meeting with him called Alcoholics for Christ. With all the humility I could muster up at that time…I told him that is was bad enough I was no longer drinking or getting loaded…but there was no way I was gonna’ become one of those Jesus Freaks.
Without missing a beat, Bill turned to look me dead in the eye and say;
“Bahrutha’…God doesn’t make freaks out of men…He makes men out of freaks”
Little did I know that through his invitation, I’d come to not only believe in God, but to develop a relationship with him as my Father. Without any exaggeration, William Keaton has directly carried the message of recovery and/or/both the saving knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ to well over 2,500 individuals–and indirectly to 10 times that amount through the ministry of Alcoholics for Christ. Having said that, I don’t deify or pedestal my brother Bill. He’s a man just like any other and puts his pants on one leg at a time…except that he can’t even do that now.
Prior to the passing of Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) on January 24, 1971, My Dad & Bill Keaton went to an open talk at Guest House in Lake Orion. The date of their seminal experience was April 11, 1967. They’d gone to hear some speaker at this treatment center for alcoholic priests. As they sat at a table with 9 other priests, who should walk in the room but The Man himself…Bill Wilson. As Bill Wilson gave his testimony and recounted the spiritual transformation that took place in Townes Hospital during his last de-tox, Bill and my Dad sat there lapping up every word. In fact, my Dad had a small tape recorder with him that day, recording Wilson’s Open Talk. (Possibly the last known recording of a talk given by Bill Wilson…Bill Keaton and I had it transferred digitally and is available to anyone who asks) As Wilson went on to describe the person of the Holy Spirit filling him and his room in a white light, he knew he’d met the “God of the preachers“ Turning to my Dad, Bill Keaton exclaimed;
The rest is history. Heaven’s Gates cracked open that day for Bill and my Dad. That was the spark that lit the fire of regeneration for Bill & my Dad. From the spark of life in a testimony given by Bill Wilson, Bill Keaton would give assent being apprehended by Jesus Christ some 7 years later, followed by my Dad’s salvation in 1974. The ministry of Alcoholics for Christ would be birthed some 5 years later. There’s this cool line on the Book of Revelation that says; “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” The reason a personal testimony is so powerful is because it’s personal and it’s yours. No one can take it from you. Bill was not to be robbed. He gathered that word in his heart and has spent the rest of his life carrying the message to others lost and suffering under the lash of addiction.
For that…I and thousands of others who came later remain in his gratitude.
Bill is currently in room 267 at the Heartland Georgian Inn in Bloomfield. If within striking distance, go visit Bill. He may or may not be out of it. Either way, you’ll be blessed and send a message to staff that Bill is being watched and has a lot of friends.
We need to advocate for the “least of these”. Ignoring the elderly is not cool.
Special thanks to Zena Neds-Fox and Will Garrett for your prayers tonight. Lord knows I needed them.
God Bless Your Hearts