NBC’s David Gregory finds that being there can have the greatest impact on a young person struggling to find his way.
My mother-in-law was the inspiration. Last fall we were discussing some of the incredible volunteer work she does in San Diego with homeless young people when I felt the urge to do similar work in Washington. I found my way to Sasha BruceYouthwork, an organization dedicated to helping runaways or other homeless young people stay off the streets, get educated and lead independent lives. Like a lot of people who volunteer their time, I offered to help younger kids closer in age to my 5-yearold twins and 8 year old. Sasha Bruce requested instead that I help out with some of the older young people who often get overlooked because their challenges are harder.
There, on a cold winter morning just weeks before Christmas, I met my friend Steve Cherenfant. We had been connected just a week prior and now were mentor and mentee. I didn’t have any experience at this, nor did he. Steve was born in Haiti where his mother died giving birth to him. He later lived with his sisters and father in Washington until his father died several years ago. He’s had a tough upbringing, a lot of loss and loneliness, and is now working at Sasha Bruce with young people even as he tries to pull his life together and get on a path to independent living.
Any new mentor quickly learns a humbling lesson: simply showing up is the biggest contribution you can make. Steve and I have worked to get to know each other. I’ve learned a lot about what’s going on in his life and what he would like to be doing. We catch a movie or meet for lunch. I’ve had him come visit the studio, or we visit one of the Sasha Bruce offices where he works.
We’ve also struggled at times to connect. Someone in Steve’s position doesn’t always give of himself easily. He’s been let down too many times before. That’s the challenge for me: to be patient as I encourage him and push him to work on this relationship.
I talk about Steve with my three young children. They come up with ideas for me but they also seem to understand the important stuff even better than I do: offering someone else your friendship is probably the best contribution you can make.