All too often, the things we treasure most and hold dearest to our hearts, can be the most difficult to put into words. My experience as a Big Brother is just that. I am seldom at a loss for words, but yet find myself speechless about one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I became a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters because I felt like I had skills and character traits that I could share with a child. I believed there was a child out there that needed me and what I had to offer. What I didn’t know is that my life was about to change and it was I who needed a Little Brother just a much as he needed me.
I was matched with Tye’re almost two years ago in the Lunch Buddy program. We would meet one time per week at school during his lunch period. We would eat, play games, do homework, and just talk about the things he wanted to talk about. It didn’t take long for him to learn that I was the Connect Four champion of the world. He and I had a great time during our 45 minute lunches, but I was not satisfied with my level of involvement. After about 4 months as a Lunch Buddy, Tye’re and I moved our match to the community based program. The community match program allowed me to see him more often and bring him into my life, my family, and truly teach him things about being a man. I always enjoyed my experiences with Tye’re, but I knew there was still more that I could do. It was then that I learned about Mason’s story. Mason was a fifteen year old sophomore who had been on the BBBS waiting list for about 6 years. He wanted a Big Brother to spend time with, but was unable to find a lasting match with the program. I met Mason at a fundraising event where he spoke about his time on the waiting list and what it would mean to him to have someone to spend time with. That evening, I told the staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters that I wanted to be matched with Mason in addition to Ty’ere. Mason and I have now been matched for about 10 months. He is a great kid with huge dreams and aspirations. We have many things in common, including a love for the game of basketball.
There are four words that describe my experience as a Big Brother:
Inspiring- My Little Brothers inspire me to be a better man. They both put me on a pedestal for which I do not belong. They both face challenges in their lives that I did not experience as a child. Yet they remain determined to work through those challenges while maintaining “million dollar” smiles. They motivate me to strive for self-development so that I can live up to their expectations.
Growth- We focus our time together on personal growth. We talk about the importance of making choices and understanding the consequences of those choices. We also spend a lot of time talking about educational growth and the importance of school. I am so proud of Mason and Tye’re and the efforts they continue to show around being better students, athletes, and overall young men.
Friendship- Being a Big Brother is more than being a mentor. It is truly a friendship. I enjoy the time we spend together and I look forward to seeing them each week. We like playing basketball, riding bikes, and playing video games, just to name a few. No matter what the activity, the “little moments” have the biggest impact. It gives us the chance to talk, be guys, and strengthen the bond of what started as strangers, but has evolved into best friends.
Laughter- The time I spend with my Little Brothers is full of laughter. Their smiles that are contagious and consuming. Our ability to laugh and have a good time helps me deal with stresses in my own life. For those few hours, I can escape from the real world that consumes me each and every day.
This week I spent time with both Tye’re and Mason. During our time together, I took time to notice the growth that they both have shown over the last few months. They are becoming fine young men who can and will accomplish great things in the future. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I am a better man today because of the relationships I have with my Little Brothers. Without knowing it, they both teach me many lessons during our time together. These lessons allow me to grow as a father, husband, and son. There are not too many things that render me speechless, but something as outstanding as being a Big Brother is more than words can express.
I would encourage everyone to consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. There are 600 children like Mason and Tye’re in our area that currently sit on the waiting list. They are waiting for someone who is willing to spend 3-4 hours a month with them just being their friend. It is an easy way to get involved and make a difference. The littlest moments make a big impact on the life of a child.