While I don't always make time to do so, I enjoy volunteering my time to help causes that mean something to me. They make my life feel more enriched and allow me to give to others and live "outside of myself". Sometimes it's just hard to find an organization to join, and the most difficult step is often always the first one.
This post is 100 percent honest and real. I enjoy being a Big. More officially, I volunteer with my fiance Brooke as a "Big Couple" for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City. Basically, I get to spend time having fun with and being a mentor to a kid in the Kansas City metro area.
The beginning of any thousand-mile journey starts with the first step, and the first step was signing up for the program. Luckily, I had Brooke to hold my hand. As we began the process of attending an information session and filling out our volunteer interview that took more than half an hour, my answers to several of the questions made me wonder if I would even be a good fit for a big brother. But I began to think about watching family members in my life grow up and become an amazing young adults thanks in part to their support network. It is interesting how your priorities and successes can make you want to give back to the next generation. This was that opportunity for me.
Brooke and I began to look through the case files of many children in the metro area interested in having a "Big", and after a couple of rounds of looking at some profiles, we read about the background of this “Little” named Savalis. The little guy sounded like a gem. We told our case worker we would like to be considered for being his Big Couple. Long story short, Savalis and his mom liked us as well and we became paired.
Now the scariest part - the first meeting. No relationship reaches full bloom on the first date, and neither does meeting a unique young person with their own thoughts and views of the world. Especially when you have already had 30 years to form your own views. All the simple questions come first. "Do you like sports?" "What's your favorite food?" What do you like to do?" Brooke is much better at keeping the chatter going as we get to know Savalis. She also just has that touch that people have when it comes to communicating with younger children. Though I make up for it in my video game skills and willingness to jump on trampolines.
Being a Big is a commitment to be a part of a young child’s life and to spend time with them and being a creative and constructive outlet in their life. I’m sure I’ve had all of the same questions that other Bigs have had on their mind. What do I do with a Little as a Big? Am I doing this thing wrong? What if they aren't having fun? Do they like being around me?
All these questions are constantly in my head until I see him smile and laugh. These children and families WANT a role model in their lives. And when I hear him tell me weeks later after he was having trouble reading that he is now starting to read books about horses on his own - and even sharing details about the books he reads, it gets me excited. The fact that when Brooke and I are bored after two periods of a hockey game and ask if he just enjoyed a little bit that he says he "enjoyed the whole thing" gives me a sense of pride. Watching him grow up a little every week gives me the smallest idea of what parents talk about when they watch their children grow up right in front of them. Which is good enough for Brooke and I right now, as we get the smallest taste of what being a parent could look like.
Being a Big is an extreme joy. It's essentially like being a grandparent. Spoil the child. Teach them some life lessons. Send them home. But it's much more than that. It's about being a mentor. And I'm excited for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself.