My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
God’s bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?
Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less
they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.
Take them in.
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act II, Scene ii, 1600
I recently returned home from my fifth trip to the Middle East, visiting Jordan and Lebanon. I was in Jordan as a member of the TechWomen delegation – TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). I visited Lebanon to see my friends, the TechWomen program alumnae and to talk with Al-Makassed (the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut).
As the Vice President for MentorCloud, I talked a great deal about mentoring during my trip. I traveled with my daughter Jessica. She and I were welcomed with world-class generosity and open hearts and minds. In discussing the motivations for mentors, I often use the phrase paying it forward. That is, mentors often say that they are giving back the wise and generous advice and support that they themselves were given during their development. I was surprised and concerned when discussing these motivations for mentors not once but twice to be told that in Arabic, the saying is not “Give and Take” but “Take and Give”. This seemed to reflect doubt among some audience members that mentoring would work in their culture. I have been thinking about these discussions for the two weeks that I have been home.
During one of our long bus trips in Jordan, our tour guide played a video for us in which His Majesty King Abdulla of Jordan gives a Royal Tour of his country. “Jordan – The Royal Tour” is a 2002 tourism promotion piece but a good overview nonetheless. During the tour, King Abdulla tells a story from his youth. His uncle (then heir-apparent to King Hussein) and he were traveling in the desert and met an old man on a white horse. The man wanted to give them lunch, so he sold the stallion, his only possession, to buy fifteen sheep for a feast. Of course, when this became known, the white stallion was repurchased with fifteen more sheep as a present in return. King Abdullah calls this tradition of generous welcome the “code of the desert”. My experiences in the Middle East have been consistent with the King’s story – I have been honored by extraordinary generosity.
So, why would my Middle Eastern audiences doubt their community’s welcoming of mentoring – a relationship based on long-term generosity? As a life-long fan of William Shakespeare, I thought of the interchange above between Hamlet and Polonius – about the merit in treating others according to our own honor and dignity. Coming to terms with our own generosity and motivations is part of the journey that leads many of us to become mentors.
Recommended additional reading: “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?” by Susan Dominus, 13 March 2014, _New York Times_
Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson