Walk with Me
Wanted: A person who reserves judgment, helps me navigate rough terrains, maybe even pulls me out of quicksand when I lose my footing from time to time, someone who cares about things that are important to me or who will help me live a fuller life.
I met a wonderful woman last week during the NFL playoffs – I don’t even know who won the games because we were engrossed in our conversation for hours. A complete stranger who was younger than me, looked nothing like me, from a different background, and maybe a bit standoffish – I mean we actually did crash their party so an attitude was fair game. But for some reason we were drawn to each other. You know that kind of connection where the formality and niceties that often plague us from really getting to know each other would ruin the flow of the exchange between us? This woman was a walking miracle and you would never know it unless you took the time to ask and listen. The reason she seemed reserved initially is because she was not in a good position to greet me. It’s difficult to turn your head when metal rods are used to recreate portions of your neck; your jaw occasionally still slips out of place when you speak, and you have various disorders of the nervous system caused by two terrible car accidents. She scanned through her cell to share the pictures and showed me the scars. Damn! But what she also shared with me, through her unguarded experience, was everything that I needed for my own journey right now as a CEO, a mom, a daughter, a Big Sister, and a friend. It was truly amazing. A testimony that you should never keep to yourself. I remember thinking (while people were high-fiving about a touchdown)…’it would be great if SHE could walk with me through this part of my life…like a mentor”. Really, I can’t make this stuff up. Yes, like a mentor!
That experience reinforced for me just how important it is for Big Brothers Big Sisters to make sure our most vulnerable youth have someone to walk with them as they transition from adolescence through adulthood. A Big Brother or a Big Sister is a mentor or guide willing to listen, understand, empathize, correct, challenge, celebrate, laugh, and even cry with our Littles. The Search Institute, a leading innovator in youth development, identified five key elements as vital in developmental relationships for youth--expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power and expanding possibilities--it is often the adult who takes the lead in these actions and expresses them most strongly, intentionally, and consistently. The Search Institute contends that when those five elements are in place in a young person’s life, they experience better outcomes in academic motivation, social and emotional skills and personal responsibility. The problem comes when youth do not experience those elements of relationships as they should. When you are from a vulnerable background, like many of the youth served by Big Brothers Big Sisters, such as foster care, incarcerated parents, lack of resources, systemic poverty, violence, etc., the more likely you are to have one or fewer transformative relationships. Many parents and caregivers work hard to provide for their children, but they are often too stretched to give undivided attention, unique learning opportunities, or new perspectives.
Every week, we are matching youth in a one-to-one relationship with a well trained, caring and professionally supported adult mentor. Our mentors spend 4 hours per month with youth and dedicate one year to being a consistent presence for the youth – taking time to ask and listen and to help sort through their dreams and aspirations. On average our matches last about 3 years helping to fill the relationship gap that is so important for our youth. I hope you will continue helping us fulfill our vision to ensure all children achieve success in life. Let’s make sure that every youth who wants a mentor, gets a Big Brother or Big Sister! Make a donation or mentor today by clicking here.
Oh…I heard the Patriots and the Eagles won! When is the Superbowl again? Hmm…..I think I’ll call my new friend and see where’s she’s hangin out for the game!
Check out these two great articles:
https://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21646708-social-mobility-depends-what-happens-first-years-life-minding-nurture-gap and http://www.search-institute.org/blog/relationship-gap