A few people who helped shape my early career are no longer around anymore, and I’ll never be able to repay my debts to them.
One person stands out to me. He was my first mentor and desk mate at The Bulletin – the second iteration of the old Philadelphia Evening Bulletin – the largest circulation newspaper in the city for nearly 100 years. His name was Jim McCaffrey, a big, soft-hearted, pony-tailed spiritualist who gave me great advice on how to navigate the city’s murky political waters as a cub reporter fresh out of college and new on the Philadelphia scene.
McCaffrey, who I affectionately called, “Caff,” showed me how to cut through the crap of press releases and go for the underlying story. He taught me so much in such a short time that I never felt like I got to fully thank him. He passed away seven years ago this past August. He was 59.
It’s kind, open-minded and straight-shooting people like Caff that we need more of in life. A good mentoring relationship is a two-way street: It relies on the mentee expressing interest, paying attention, asking questions, giving feedback and showing improvement. The person offering the advice has to have enthusiasm, empathy, a good attitude, and a belief in their mentee’s ability to grow, to learn and to develop.
We’ve seen a lot of the opposite of that lately in cities like mine, where riding your dirt bike or ATV down the middle of a sidewalk or city street is more the type of thing that’s glamorized and admired.
Most people know that riding off-road vehicles on city streets is illegal, but police have a policy of not chasing riders down because it could lead to a more dangerous situation. On Sunday night, hundreds of people took over city streets to remember the death of a former rider. They were even afforded what appeared to be a police escort. Video obtained by 6abc showed a woman walking with a baby in a stroller who turned a corner just in time to avoid being struck.
But when the lukewarm response to behaviors like this from some of our elected officials amounts to C'est la vie, it doesn’t inspire much hope for the future.
Dirt bike and ATV joy riding, “drifting sideshows” that halt traffic – these are minor in the grand scheme of the city’s problems, probably. But it brings me back to my point about leadership. Having that – and a good mentor to show you the way early on can mean all the difference.