Monday, July 11, 2011

A Two-way Street

Big Brothers Big Sisters are in the business of providing older mentors for children who may benefit from that sort of contact.  I always thought the arrangement was primarily for the benefit of the "little."  But I've learned it's a two-way street. 

On Saturday we had my "little brother" and his parents over for dinner.  It was a great time as I knew it would be, since I've known my little for about 6 months.  Actually our formal Big Brother relationship ended with the end of the school year, since it was a site based match, but we decided that since we had become friends we wanted to keep it going on our own. 

I was reminded of my first contact with BB/BS.  They needed older adult mentors.  I found all sorts of excuses:
            Would I have the time?
            Answer:  I'm retired and it would take 1 hour per week. 

            How far would I have to travel?
            Answer: To a school less than a mile from our home. 

            What if I wasn't feeling well, or had another appointment?
            Answer:  In that unlikely event, simply call the school to let him know. 
With no defenses left I signed up, albeit with some trepidation. 

On my first visit the lady from BB/BS joined me at the school to meet my little brother and his teacher.  From that week to our final meeting in June I looked forward every Thursday to our having lunch together.  I learned what this bright fifth grader was reading in school - The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass - and got a copy for my Kindle so I could discuss it with him.  (I hadn't read it before, and found that his synopsis was spot on.)  We played games, visited the library, met his favorite teachers, and took photos around the building. (I found out that he has an incredible eye for composition).  He taught me a few Spanish words.  We did a lot of laughing and also a lot of serious talking.  He learned about my life and I learned about his.  My little brother had quickly become a good friend. 

Saturday I learned that his parents are as much fun as my little brother.  I also learned that once again, as happens often with me, I got more back than I gave. 

This was not meant to be an ad for Big Brothers Big Sisters but you might want to try out this sort of mentoring if you have the opportunity.  As you can see, it's a rewarding two way street.