Every good cause has a “month”. For mentoring, it’s January (and every month!) These recognition months are times for us to be keenly focused on an issue that impacts a great many people, and serves as a beacon call that through awareness, advocacy and support we can make a collective impact.
As National Mentoring Month comes to a close, we hope your takeaway is that mentoring works. Mentoring works because it has to work. It has to work because kids matter and a big bunch of kids are waiting for someone – you – to demonstrate that they matter by being there for them. Every time a Big and a Little get together, something unbelievable happens: you send the kid a message: I care about you, I believe in you, and I’m sticking around for a while to make sure you believe in yourself. (That may take a while, but here’s a secret: Along the way, there’s also a huge amount of fun. Please don’t tell anyone.)
It really is that simple, and that profound.
Our volunteers and supporters understand the importance of mentoring. They are igniting potential. They know that one-to-one, Bigs can empower the potential in kids through rich, respectful relationships with them. Those kids grow stronger and grow up to believe they, too, can make a difference in the world. And that is profound and cascading.
Afraid you can’t make a difference? Just imagine how scary the world can be for kids who do not always feel they belong nor afforded opportunities and resources to succeed based on “isms” and inequalities. Mentoring can teach resilience and self awareness. Your presence and your support makes a difference and sends a compelling message that says: “You are OK, I know you are OK, I believe in you.”
Here’s the catch: You have to do something to change something. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we’re in the “Defending Potential” business. Our not-so-secret ingredient is finding people to mentor kids and doing everything we can do to help make sure that mentoring relationships are strong and resilient, so the kids become strong and resilient. (We don’t want to brag, but much of what is known about the importance of mentoring was built on our experiences.)
How can you help? First, get educated. Find out what we’re about. Then volunteer. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Four hours a month, for one year. And while you are at it, convince a friend to volunteer. (Start by suggesting your friend check out bbbsdetroit.org) Donate. Never underestimate the value of a donation from you, your company, place of worship, professional organization fundraising efforts, in supporting the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Pay it Forward!
Potential Realized Alert! I had a conversation with a wonderful man who was a Little Brother in the mid 1960’s. He shared the difference his Big Brother made during a time when he was living in poverty and running, visionless, in and out of the juvenile justice system. He is now a husband, father and grandfather. His children are successful, and he is one happy man.