What made you decide to become a Big/mentor? As cliché as it might sound, I wanted to find ways to give back to the community where I lived. After searching through several different volunteer opportunities, and even joining many of those that I found, Big Brothers/Big Sisters came up and caught my attention. After doing some research, and going through the process of background checks, home visits, and signing releases, I finally became a Big Brother in January 2018. I can honestly say it has been one of the most rewarding and worthwhile decisions of my life.
Tell us a little bit about your little! My little brother, Artie, is quite the character. He turned 13 this past summer and is every bit the typical tweenager. He can be very shy which made it very difficult in the beginning to have any type of conversation with him. Now that we have formed a much stronger bond, he never stops talking. We have the same sense of humor, which is both a blessing and a curse. He’s terrific kid – doesn’t cause trouble at school, always willing to help with something, and an all-around nice young man.
What is a favorite story about you and your little? I take for granted so many of the “little things” in life so much so that now, when spending time with Artie, I am baffled by the lack of experiences he has yet to have at 13. For the holidays, we decided to make cookies and work on an art project that BBBS was sponsoring. I picked him up and we headed to the store for our supply run. As we were driving there I gave him a stack of papers I had printed with recipes for different kinds of cookies and cakes. I asked him to pick out some that he thought sounded good. I got tickled when this “simple” process became a half hour endeavor trying to size up ingredients, prep times, and whether he thought he would like it or not. Finally, after picking out about 10 recipes, we got our supplies in a mad rush and headed home to start the baking process. I learned that he had never baked cookies or cooked in the kitchen. He was not familiar with how to measure out ingredients. He had never used a mixer or an oven. We made the entire outing into a fun and hilarious game of me testing his newly-learned skills all while he was poking fun at me being a control freak in the kitchen. By the end we were covered in flour, sugar, eggs, marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and just about every spice I had in the kitchen. It will forever be one of my fondest holiday memories.
Favorite outing? It’s hard to pick a favorite outing because each one so far has been unique and fun. We went to the BBBS picnic back in the summer and laughed at each other’s quirks like Artie’s refusal to go barefoot on the beach (he wore socks) and my fear of spiders which was put to the test when Artie was sitting on what looked like a gigantic spider colony. There’s also the time we drove out to Clarence to paint pottery in time for Mother’s Day. He spent a lot of time picking out just the right coffee mug for his mom and patiently and carefully painted it her favorite colors.
Has mentoring your little impacted your life at all? If so, how? Yes! And in many ways that would be impossible to describe. The biggest impact has been the enormous challenge of always being a positive and influential role model for someone at such a life-changing age. I catch myself always ensuring that I am making all the right choices, saying the right things, and living and acting in such a way that Artie sees that there is so much more to life outside of what he’s experienced so far at such a young age. I am, by no means, wealthy or extravagant; however, I take great pride in my home and my “things” which is definitely something he took notice of.
Any other thoughts, experiences, or stories that you would like to share… Anyone who is interested in opportunities with Big Brothers/Big Sisters should absolutely consider seeking out more information. Many of my fellow “Bigs”, myself included, are always willing to share our experiences with others in hopes of having more participation in the community.