What is a Mentor?

I made an offhand comment yesterday on FB about a "creative mentor" who had sent me an e-mail that made my week. Afterward a FB friend asked a simple but confounding question: What is a mentor? 

I await her response to the same question---it's something she's been wrestling with for some time, apparently---but I said something like this:

Mentor is a pretty broad term for me. There are people who mentor me who don't know they're doing it. Like the person I was talking about yesterday--she's an artist whose work I've been enjoying for a long time. I met her several years ago, but we don't talk regularly.

I guess my definition is someone whose life or work inspires you to be the best person you can be.

This is a timely question because Jan's blog post for today talks about being a mentor. She, by the way, is one of my mentors. And friends.

Jo(e) is another one. I admire the way she lives, works, thinks, and walks around in the world. I've never met her, but I hope to someday.

I believe that technology allows us to be mentored by people in a way we could not be in previous generations. Sometimes social media creates a false sense of intimacy, though. When well-known people share their lives on Twitter or Facebook, we can get sucked into feeling like we know them. It's a mistake to call them friends, though. But I think it's OK to call them mentors.

I also think these virtual mentors are no match for someone who has agreed to take on the role of mentor---someone who interacts with a mentee with that intentional relationship in mind. I have had that kind of relationship too. Mainly professors.

What do you think? What is a mentor? And do you have one?