In September 2019, I would have never imagined the great impact Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston (JBBBS) would have on me and the countless children, families and volunteers we work with. I have done a lot of reflecting over the past year on many aspects of my life. Mainly mulling over my first year as a graduate student, all the knowledge I have gained and the many opportunities it has afforded me. The most impactful of all has been having the opportunity to be a Big. And, now, as a staff person, I have been equally impacted by hearing from other Bigs and Littles as to what they enjoy most about being part of the program.

When I learned I was going to be a Big, I wondered whether I would be any good as a mentor. I imagine this feeling is common amongst those volunteers enrolling in the program. For those considering becoming a Big or Friend, this is your sign to do it. All the care, support, experiences and, most importantly, the fun you can provide to another person is meaningful in ways you can and can’t see.

My own experience being matched through JBBBS showed me that it doesn’t take much to connect with others and as impactful as the experience is for the children and adults with disabilities you will work with, it will be equally as profound for you.

During my first meeting with my Little, she was slow to warm up to me. We connected over our shared love for art and spent many days drawing pictures, modeling clay, folding origami and painting birdhouses. We truly were just having fun being together. For me, just seeing a smile on her face while sculpting dinosaurs from clay that looked more like deer or a small laugh adding “salsa dancing” as a verb in Mad Libs made my day. I may never know for sure what, if anything, she has gained from her time with me, but those small validations feel very rewarding. I don’t know if I have had quite as big an impact on her as she has had on me, but I hope that in some small way she has gained something, anything, from being my Little.

I have the unique opportunity to be on both sides of these interactions and it has greatly benefitted me in both my work for JBBBS and my time as a Big. For many Bigs, it is hard to know if the things you and your Little are doing together are actually having an impact, or as one of my Bigs so eloquently asked, “How do I know I’m being a good mentor?” I can’t say I know the answer to that, but I do know that seeing a small smile, laugh or glimmer of excitement in your Little is extremely rewarding.

I do, however, get the pleasure of hearing back from other Littles on things they have enjoyed doing with their Bigs and their favorite things about being part of JBBBS, with occasional pictures of matches that brighten my days. The sheer excitement that children convey when talking about their experiences with their Bigs truly makes all that JBBBS does worth it. In addition, I get to ask Bigs what they enjoy most about being a Big. Many answers warm my heart with how caring, compassionate and dedicated all of our volunteers are to truly supporting a child. They include enjoying a warm greeting when meeting, being asked genuine questions, learning from each other and being an outlet and resource when needed.

Both in-person and virtually, JBBBS has an incredible way of bringing people together that, I think, are meant to meet and learn from each other. If you are thinking about enrolling your child or becoming a volunteer, please consider it. I can assure you that you won’t regret it, and the JBBBS team is always here to support you and answer any questions or concerns you may have. We strive for and are dedicated to making this an amazing experience for all the children, families and volunteers we work with.

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