“There”—a word so many of us use on a daily basis with no hesitation or thought. It just jumps out, but it is so crucial. How many classes did you pass, and how many cool moments are captured in your memory just by being there in that moment with very little effort? But now, looking back at your important moments, you realize they all began with being there. Being a mentor and a Big is much the same. No matter the time, the place or the tenure, all it takes is that same effortless concept of being there for your Little.
When I first spoke to JBBBS about my Little, I thought they were describing me: “Young boy, single mother, inner city and, oh, you have to speak Russian.”
I thought to myself, “If this isn’t a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is!”
When I met Danny, I was nervous. Kids these days are so smart; earning their approval can be more difficult than acing a job interview. We talked about basketball, Russia, his mom, what kind of food he likes. I had so many plans and I was so excited to be his mentor. I thought to myself, “All of those things that were difficult for me as a little Russian boy in Boston I could have the opportunity to help him with.” The thought of that excited me but also overwhelmed me. How was I supposed to start?
We proceeded to hit it off and spent the coming weeks bowling, playing chess, trying out new places to eat, exploring Boston and, most important, having random conversations to get to know each other. One day, I ran out of ideas for a plan with my Little. I picked him up and on the spur of the moment, we went on a hike in Quincy and proceeded to make a post-hike stop at Chipotle and replenish with a Gatorade.
On the ride home that day, Danny was really thankful, but I didn’t really understand why. If I was being honest, I didn’t even plan a good day. I just threw something together. Then, right when we got to his apartment, he said the words that put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me: “I had a lot of fun today. It’s pretty cool how we’re friends. Thanks for picking me up.”
In that moment, it hit me: Being a mentor and a Big isn’t complicated. It’s not about orchestrating the perfect day, or the perfect outing, or saying the right things at the right time. When you’re a child, your greatest fear is being alone, and just knowing that someone will be there with you and for you makes all the difference.
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